more than 1.5 million Muslims begin their Hajj,In the shadow of the Israel-Hamas conflict

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more than 1.5 million Muslims begin their Hajj,In the shadow of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The annual Hajj pilgrimage began on Friday as Muslim pilgrims from Mecca gathered at a sizable tent camp in the desert, despite the intense heat. They made a circle around the Grand Mosque’s cube-shaped Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam, before leaving.

Since more pilgrims from Saudi Arabia joined the ranks, the number of pilgrims gathering in and around Mecca for the Hajj has surpassed 1.5 million from all over the world. Saudi officials anticipated that this year’s figure will surpass two million.

The fierce conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, which has brought the Middle East to the verge of a regional conflict between Israel and its supporters and terrorist organizations backed by Iran on the one hand, dominated the Hajj this year.

Due to Israel’s military offensive that extended to the southern city of Rafah on the border with Egypt in May, Palestinians living in the coastal enclave of Gaza were unable to perform the Hajj in Mecca this year.

On his way to camp Mina, Mohammed Rafeeq, an Indian pilgrim, stated, “We pray for the Muslims, for our country and people, for all the Muslim world, especially for the Palestinian people.”

4,200 pilgrims from the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian authorities, arrived in Mecca for the Hajj. According to Saudi officials, 1,000 additional relatives of Palestinians slain or injured in the Gaza conflict traveled to Saudi Arabia to undertake the Hajj at King Salman’s invitation. The 1,000 invited individuals were already outside of Gaza, primarily in Egypt, prior to the Rafah gate closing.

“We are deprived of (performing) Hajj because the crossing is closed, and because of the raging wars and destruction,” expressed 75-year-old Palestinian Amna Abu Mutlaq of Khan Younis, in the southern city of Gaza, about her inability to complete her annual Hajj. “They (Israel) took everything away from us.”

For the first time in over ten years, Syrian pilgrims made the pilgrimage to Mecca on direct flights from Damascus this year. The modification is a part of the continuing warming of ties between Saudi Arabia and Syria, which is embroiled in violence. In the past, Syrians in areas controlled by rebels would traverse into neighboring Turkey to complete their arduous journey to Mecca for the Hajj.

“It is a natural occurrence for pilgrims to travel directly from their place of origin to Hajj,” stated Abdel-Aziz al-Ashqar, a Syrian who organized the group of pilgrims departing from Damascus this year.

One of the Five Pillars of Islam is the pilgrimage, and if they are financially and physically capable, all Muslims must perform the five-day Hajj at least once in their lifetime.

For pilgrims who feel it cleanses them of sins and draws them nearer to God, it is a powerful spiritual experience that unites the more than 2 billion Muslims worldwide. It’s also an opportunity to pray for peace in a number of Arab and Muslim nations that are riven by violence, such as Sudan and Yemen, where a war between opposing generals lasted more than a year and resulted in the greatest refugee crisis in history.

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