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War zone wedding: Gaza couple marry at U.N. shelter

By Bryony Jones, CNN
updated 1:35 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
  • Omar Abu Namar, 30, and Heba Fayad, 23, were married in ceremony at UNRWA shelter
  • The couple moved to the Gaza shelter after their homes in Beit Lahiya were destroyed
  • UNRWA paid for the couple to spend their first few nights as husband and wife in a hotel

(CNN) -- Amid the death and destruction of life in Gaza, a spark of hope for the future: A Palestinian couple have married in a makeshift wedding ceremony at the UNRWA shelter which has become their temporary home.

Omar Abu Namar, 30, and Heba Fayad, 23, moved to the shelter -- a U.N. school in Gaza City's Shati refugee camp -- after their homes in Beit Lahiya were destroyed in the conflict with Israel, throwing their wedding plans into disarray.

Fayad's white dress and other items for the wedding were lost, and she and her husband-to-be faced the prospect of having to postpone their special day indefinitely, before friends, family and others stepped in to help.

"I went to UNRWA and told them that I am engaged and asked them if they can help me to do the wedding," Abu Namar explained in an interview with the Watania Media Agency, published on YouTube.

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"They said yes, we will help you with it. They stood by me, and helped with the wedding from A to Z."

UNWRA offered to host the wedding at the shelter, and even paid for the couple to spend their first few nights as husband and wife at a hotel, away from the crowds of thousands of fellow displaced people now living under the same roof.

Those crowds -- the couple's new neighbors -- were in attendance as Abu Namar and Fayad celebrated their wedding.

For many the party, complete with dancers, music, balloons and cake, offered a much-needed break from the bloodshed, and a chance to forget the troubles of recent weeks.

"Now that we are at the wedding, we have a change of spirits: enough depression and melancholy, this is something else," guest Haya Aziz told the Agence France-Presse news agency (AFP).

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness told CNN the wedding was a rare piece of good news for Gaza.

"It is truly heartwarming that amid the carnage and devastation we have a story of love and humanity -- it is a reminder of the dignity and the destinies that lie behind the statistics."

But he added that despite the individual romance of Abu Namar and Fayad's story, "one must never lose sight of the fact that Gaza has seen its worst devastation in recent memory."

READ MORE: Gaza cease-fire extension holding
READ MORE: Mideast spiraling in war and terror
READ MORE: What are the prospects for peace?

CNN's Carol Jordan, Andrew Carey, Antonia Mortensen and Ali Younes contributed to this report.

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