Rafah, Palestinian Territories:
Surrounded by family and friends, clapping and cheering, Gaza woman Afnan Jibril beams a brilliant smile on her wedding day, determined to celebrate even as war rages.
“We are a people that love life, despite death, murders, and destruction,” said her father, Mohamed Jibril.
Relatives were gathered on Friday for the wartime wedding in a tiny room at an abandoned school building in the besieged Gaza Strip’s southern city of Rafah, near the frontier with Egypt.
The city has suffered daily Israeli bombardment, and the families of both bride and groom are among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have fled the fighting further north.
“The usual preparations for marriage are not possible, and traditional ceremonies are not feasible,” said the bride’s father. “However, clothes are available, although they are scarce and expensive.”
Afnan, 17, donning a crown of flowers and pristine white dress with stark red embroidery, and her partner Mustafa Shamlakh, 26, want to make the most of their rare chance to celebrate.
They dance and laugh as guests spray white mousse around the room.
But eventually, they have to face reality.
Israel’s relentless military campaign, triggered by attacks by Palestinian militants, has killed at least 23,843 people, mostly women and children, in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
The war began when Hamas operatives launched an unprecedented attack on October 7, which resulted in about 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
The newlyweds make up part of another grim tally — those displaced by the violence, which UN estimates put at 1.9 million Palestinians out of a total population in Gaza of 2.4 million.
“The house where the groom was supposed to live was destroyed,” Ayman Shamlakh, the groom’s uncle, told AFP.
As the war went on, both families felt there was nothing to be gained from waiting and they agreed to the marriage.
After the school celebration, the couple head for a ceremony set to take place in a tent.
As they dive into a waiting black SUV, surrounded by a massive crowd of well-wishers, it almost looks like any other wedding day.
“We are all living through the same tragedy,” said Ayman Shamlakh. “However, we must continue to live, and life should go on.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)