Thousands in Middle East protest Israeli attack on Gaza

December 28th, 2008 - 11:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Amman, Dec 28 (DPA) Thousands of people participated in rallies across the Middle East Sunday to protest Israel’s airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and to show support for Palestinians caught in the attacks.Some of the larger protests were in the capitals of Yemen and Jordan. Hundreds of protesters also clashed with policemen in Lebanon while smaller demonstrations were staged in Iran.

Arab League leaders agreed to meet Wednesday to discuss a reaction to the Israeli airstrikes, which were prompted by missile and mortar attacks out of the Gaza Strip after a ceasefire expired Dec 19.

Since the Israeli attacks started Saturday, 283 Palestinians, many of them militants, were reported dead. More than 900 have reportedly been wounded.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of several Yemeni cities. The largest, by far, was in the capital, Sana’a, where around 80,000 people rallied in the city’s main football stadium, police officials said.

Thousands of protesters also took part in anti-Israeli demonstrations in the cities of Aden, Dhalea, Taiz, Houdieda, Dhamar, Abyan and Lahj, the police reported.

In Sana’a, protesters held up pictures of the leaders of the Hamas movement, which has de facto control of the Gaza Strip. They also lofted the Palestinian flag alongside banners denouncing the Israeli attacks.

Meanwhile, thousands of Jordanians demonstrated outside the Egyptian embassy in Amman Sunday to press Egyptian authorities to re- open the Rafah crossing point with the Gaza Strip.

“Our sit-in before the Egyptian embassy today has the primary aim of telling the Egyptian regime … that the Rafah crossing point should be re-opened,” said Zaki Bani Ershaid, secretary general of the Islamic Action Front (IAF).

Palestinian supporters argue that the crossing must be reopened to allow civilians and wounded to escape. Egypt has reported that it has opened its border, but that Hamas officials are blocking people from leaving the Gaza Strip.

Other demonstrators urged the governments of Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries to have concluded peace treaties with Israel, to “sever ties” with the Jewish state.

Lebanese anti-riot police used force to disperse a demonstration in front of the Egyptian embassy in Beirut, firing tear gas and using water after protesters got close to a barbed wire barricade and started throwing stones at police officers.

The protesters, who numbered in the hundreds, were mostly of Sunni background.

Before the confrontation, men riding motorbikes and carrying black flags, wearing the traditional Palestinian headdress had chanted “God help our people in Gaza,” were among the protesters.

One of the protesters told DPA, “We are here to show our solidarity with the oppressed people of Gaza and ask the world community to intervene to stop the bloodshed.”

Coinciding with the protests, five Israeli warplanes flew over south Lebanon in a violation of Lebanese airspace, prompting the Lebanese army to go on full alert.

The Iranian parliament interrupted its normal session Sunday as members spent several minutes shouting “death to Israel,” while Speaker Ali Larijani warned that Israel would soon face a third wave of intifada or Palestinian uprising.

A demonstration was held Sunday against Israel in front of the United Nations headquarters in northern Tehran. There was also a solidarity protest in front of the Palestinian embassy in the capital.

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