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Muslims begin Ramadan in heat of summer

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — More than a billion Muslims in the Middle East and around the world have begun observing the holy month of Ramadan — a period devoted to prayer and dawn-to-dusk fasting.

This year's fasting in the Middle East is particularly tough as Muslims struggle through the long hot days of a sweltering summer. In some areas, including Gaza, the difficulties are compounded by frequent power outages.

Ramadan's start is calculated based on the sighting of the new moon, which marks the beginning of the Muslim lunar month.

But that calculation is frequently an exercise in demonstrating a particular sect's or community's power in the conflicted region.

Most Sunni Muslims began fasting at dawn Wednesday, while Shiites in Iran, Iraq and Oman will start the fast Thursday.

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