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Gaza florist selling red roses aims to spread smiles, joy amid devastation

HUSSAM Abdulhadi walks around tent camps and outside hospitals in Rafah, southern Gaza, selling freshly picked red roses to try to comfort Palestinians displaced by an Israeli offensive that has pummelled much of the enclave to rubble.

“I am here selling flowers to spread joy among people during the war in the hope that this changes their mood, makes them happy and puts a smile on their faces,” said Abdulhadi, who like most Gazans has himself been displaced by the conflict.

He said many of his customers bought the flowers for injured family members, for relatives in hospital or for those who have lost their homes during the Israeli military offensive.

“This raises the spirits and brings optimism after what we witnessed from war, destruction, and the destruction of homes,” said resident Wafaa al-Arraj, clutching a red rose.

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At least 25,700 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 64,000 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7, the territory’s health ministry said on Wednesday.

The strikes are in retaliation for a rampage on Oct. 7 by militants of the Hamas group that runs Gaza in which Israel says 1,200 were killed and 253 taken hostage.

The tiny coastal territory’s population now live packed into communal shelters in U.N. schools or in makeshift tent camps.

Abdulhadi obtains his flowers from a plant nursery in Rafah and sells them for the equivalent of about 80 U.S. cents apiece. But he gave one for free to Rafat al-Satari, a 16-year-old kidney dialysis patient being wheeled by his sister out of a nearby hospital.

READ:  Israel shells southern Gaza as Hamas deputy buried in Lebanon

“(The rose) has improved his mood, given him hope,” said his sister Mahar al-Satari, adding their mother and two siblings had been killed by Israeli shelling. “God willing, Rafat will hold on to hope, especially after what he has been through.”

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By SALEH SALEM

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