Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in support of war-torn Gaza on Monday as they gathered to pray at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Police put the number of worshipers at 45,000 people, with an AFP correspondent saying many were dressed in black T-shirts emblazoned with slogans reading “Gaza, supporting you is our Eid” and “We are all Gaza.”
Others wore T-shirts proclaiming support for Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which has been locked in a 21-day confrontation with Israeli troops in Gaza. Israeli launched Operation Protective Edge on July 21 to stem rocket fire from Gaza on Israel’s south and center, and to find and destroy Hamas’s cross-border attack tunnels.
According to Palestinian sources the conflict has so far claimed 1,036 lives in Gaza, which Israel has said includes hundreds of combatants. Israeli losses include 43 IDF soldiers and two civilians; six IDF soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen emerging from the cross-border tunnels.
Among the crowds was a young child on someone’s shoulders holding up a plastic gun.
“Kidnap more soldiers!” they chanted. “Our blood for Gaza.”
Police distanced themselves from the crowd, which soon dispersed without incident, the correspondent said.
The ongoing violence in Gaza has escalated tensions across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with angry protesters clashing nightly with Israeli police and troops.
Figures published by the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) at the weekend showed 11 Palestinians have been killed and around 600 injured in clashes since July 23. Ten of them, including a teenager, were shot dead by Israeli troops, while another was killed by an Israel settler, it said.
Overnight, stone-throwing protesters faced off with troops until dawn in Yatta in the southern West Bank, with three injured by live fire and another three arrested, Palestinian security sources said.
Following further clashes overnight in East Jerusalem, police spokeswoman Luba Samir said another 22 people were arrested, raising to 375 the overall number of people detained in the eastern sector of the city since July 2.
So far, 135 people have been indicted for disturbing the peace in weeks of angry protests which erupted followed the July 2 kidnap and murder of a Palestinian teenager by a group of Jewish extremists in revenge for the abduction and murder in June of three Israeli teens by suspected Palestinian terrorists.
The angry protests also spread across Arab towns in Israel, with police making “close to a thousand arrests,” Samri said.