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Palestinians celebrate Eid al-Adha

Nov. 6, 2011 11:13 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 8, 2011 9:30 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Muslim worshipers throughout Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem marked the beginning of the four-day feast of Eid al-Adha on Sunday.

In Jerusalem's Old City, thousands of worshipers gathered at the Al-Aqsa mosque to attend early morning prayers, then visited the graves of relatives to pay their respects, one of the holiday's traditions.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, President Mahmoud Abbas and other officials held holiday prayers at the presidential compound, and later laid a wreath on the grave of late President Yasser Arafat.

Asked about the latest Israeli and US criticism over Palestinian efforts to gain recognition by United Nations agencies, Abbas said that those are Palestinians natural "rights" and he will continue to ignore anyone who objects them.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad wished for his nation, that by Eid next year, Palestinians will have an independent state.

"I hope that by the next Eid all the Palestinian wishes of freedom and independence will come true. And I am sure that we are in the right way, and the end of this mission will be achieving an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 lands."

Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, attended prayers in the enclave which remains under an Israeli blockade.

Haniyeh spoke about the killing of a Palestinian militant by Israeli forces in southern Gaza late on Saturday. Two other men were injured.

"It is a message to this nation and a message for all the people who are offering sacrifices: sacrifices are sometimes not only sheep, it is a way in which we praise God. The way toward Al-Aqsa, freedom and dignity is impossible unless there is blood," Haniyeh told worshipers.

An Israeli military spokesman said an aircraft fired on the militants who were preparing to fire a rocket into Israel. Islamic Jihad said the man killed and the two men hurt in the attack east of Khan Younis were members of the militant group.

Eid al-Adha -- the Feast of Sacrifice -- is one of the most important holidays in the Muslim calendar. It includes the pilgrimage to holy city of Mecca, known as "Haj", which is one of the five pillars of Islam and supposed to be undertaken by every Muslim who can afford to do so.
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