Across Mideast, Thousands Protest Israeli Assault

Published on
by
The Associated Press

Across Mideast, Thousands Protest Israeli Assault

by
Bassem Mroue

Lebanese protesters supporters of Hamas group, chant pro-Hamas slogans as they hold placards with Arabic reads:"Our souls, our blood we sacrifice for Gaza and its people," left, and "Oh our people in Gaza, you are honorable,", during a demonstration held by Islamic groups to protest Israel's attacks against the Gaza Strip, in front the United Nations house, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, on Sunday Dec. 28, 2008. About 1000 protesters Carrying Lebanese and Palestinian flags as well as green banners representing the militant Hamas group, chanted anti-Israeli slogans and called for an end to Israel's attacks against Gaza. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Crowds of thousands swept
into the streets of cities around the Middle East on Sunday to denounce
Israel's air assault on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

From
Lebanon to Iran, Israel's adversaries used the weekend assault to
marshal crowds into the streets for noisy demonstrations. And among
regional allies there was also discontent: The prime minister of
Turkey, one of the few Muslim countries to have relations with Israel,
called the air assault a "crime against humanity."

Several
of Sunday's protests turned violent. A crowd of anti-Israel protesters
in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul became a target for a suicide
bomber on a bicycle.

In Lebanon, police fired
tear gas to stop dozens of demonstrators from reaching the Egyptian
Embassy. Some in the crowd hurled stones at the embassy compound. It
was unclear if anyone was hurt.

Egypt, which
has served as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians as well as
between Hamas and its rival Fatah, has been criticized for joining
Israel in closing its borders with Gaza. Egyptian Foreign Minister
Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on Hamas to renew its truce with Israel:
"There has been a calm and we should work to restore it."

France
also called for the truce to be renewed and rallied European nations to
use "all their weight" to stop the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

"We
have entered a new spiral of despair," French Foreign Minister Bernard
Kouchner told the Journal du Dimanche in an interview published Sunday.
"The truce must be restored."

Kouchner noted
that the attacks come "in a context of vacancy of power in Israel and
the U.S." as both countries are undergoing leadership transitions.

"Europe has a role to play," Kouchner said.

In
Beirut, Hamas representative Osama Hamdan told the crowd that the
militant group had no choice but to fight. Gaza militants have been
lobbing dozens of rockets and mortars into southern Israel since a
six-month truce expired over a week ago, prompting Israel's fierce
retaliation.

"We have one alternative which is to be steadfast and resist and then we will be victorious," Hamdan said.

In
the capital of neighboring Syria, more than 5,000 people marched toward
the central Youssef al-Azmeh square, where they burned an Israeli and
an American flag.

One demonstrator carried a banner reading, "The aggression against Gaza is an aggression against the whole Arab nation."

"Down with America, the mother of terrorism," read another.

In
Amman, Jordan, about 5,000 lawyers marched toward parliament to demand
the Israeli ambassador's expulsion and the closure of the embassy. "No
for peace, yes to the rifle," they chanted.

In
Jordan's squalid Baqaa camp for Palestinian refugees and their
descendants, protester Yassin Abu Taha, 32, blamed America and Israel
for the Middle East's problems.

"The Israelis
kill our people in Gaza and the West Bank. The Americans kill our
people in Iraq. We're refugees, kicked out of our home in Tulkarem in
1967 and we're still displaced," he said, bemoaning his family's flight
in the 1967 Mideast war.

The U.S. Embassy in Jordan warned Americans to avoid areas of demonstrations.

Thousands
of Egyptians - many of them students - demonstrated at campuses in
Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere and accused President Hosni Mubarak and
other Arab leaders of not doing enough to support the Palestinians.

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said Israel should be "wiped off the map," denounced the Israeli strikes.

And
in the normally politically placid streets of glitzy Dubai, hundreds of
demonstrators - some draped in Palestinian flags - gathered at the
Palestinian consulate.

"This is a time for the
Palestinians and Arabs to unite to fight against a common enemy," said
Majdei Mansour, a 30-year-old Palestinian resident of Dubai. Mansour
said he has been unable to contact his family in Gaza since the latest
fighting.

In Iraq, where the government has
also condemned the Gaza airstrikes, a suicide bomber on a bicycle blew
himself up amid a crowd of about 1,300 demonstrators in Mosul who were
protesting against Israel, killing one demonstrator and wounding 16,
Iraqi police said.

There was no claim of
responsibility for the attack on the demonstration, which was organized
by a Sunni party in sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza, who are largely
fellow Sunnis.

Associated
Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria; Nasser Karimi in Tehran,
Iran; Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, and Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad
contributed to this report.

 

Share This Article

More in: