Published November 20, 2014
A spooked cow killed a Palestinian man who was trying to slaughter the beast on Saturday during the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, a Gaza health official said.
Muslims around the world slaughter sheep, cows and goats, during the four-day holiday that began Friday, giving away much of the meat to the poor. The Muslim holiday commemorates the sacrifice by the Prophet Ibrahim, known to Christians and Jews as Abraham.
But accidents are common as people frequently buy animals to slaughter themselves instead of paying professional butchers. The festive atmosphere at the site of the slaughtering also tends to make the animals fidgety.
The 52-year-old man who died was trampled to death, and another three people were seriously injured when the cow ran wild in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, said health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
In all, he said some 150 people were hospitalized in the Palestinian territory with knife wounds or other injuries caused by animals trying to break away.
Two similar incidents occurred in Pakistan on Saturday.
In the northwestern city of Peshawar, a bull escaped from untrained butchers and injured three people, including a 12-year-old boy. Police official Abdul Waheed said dozens of people chased to the bull and it was recaptured an hour later.
In southern city of Karachi, a young boy also was lightly wounded by a runaway bull. Owner Abdul Quddoos said it took two hours to reclaim the animal.
In Gaza, where over a third of the territory's 1.6 million residents live in poverty and nearly 80 percent rely on food aid, few people ever eat fresh meat regularly, making the holiday an even bigger treat.
During the holiday's first day in particular, Gaza's sandy alleyways and main streets are drenched in blood and entrails. Curious, war-hardened children stick their hands in the blood and watch in fascinated crowds as their elders butcher the livestock.
Impoverished families save all year to pay for an animal to slaughter, with many families often pooling their resources.
A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of fresh beef or lamb costs about $12 in Gaza — more than a day's wage for a worker, said Ibrahim al-Kidra, an agriculture ministry official. He is related to the health official.
He said some 3,700 cows and sheep are imported for consumption on a regular day, while 42,000 are brought in for the holidays. Most of Gaza's livestock comes through Israel's commercial crossing with the territory, he added, although female breeding sheep are still smuggled in.
This represents a change from years past, when Palestinians hauled most of their sheep, goats and cows through smuggling tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt, a move they resorted to because of Israel's blockade on the territory imposed when militant group Hamas seized power in 2007. That blockade has since loosened.
During the festivities, residents distribute at least a third of their meat to the poor, and another third to neighbors, giving the celebration a sense of communal solidarity.
Public slaughtering is common in Gaza, where professional butcher shops are pricey.
"It's neither healthy nor good. But it's a tradition," al-Kidra said. "Most Gazans can't believe they've finally managed to get an animal. They ask themselves: why should I pay for a butcher when I can slaughter it myself?"
Commentators also were disapproving.
"Killing an animal has standards," Sami Abu Ajwa pleaded on Gaza's al-Quds radio Saturday.
He said under Islamic law animals shouldn't see each other being killed, they should be soothed, fed water and slaughtered quickly with a sharp knife to make the suffering minimal.
Those regulations are widely ignored through the Arab world however.
Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Shakiil Adil in Karachi contributed reporting.
Follow Hadid on twitter.com/diaahadid