Thousands of people in Muslim countries and beyond held demonstrations Friday in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, denouncing Israel amid the ongoing war triggered by the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group’s shock deadly assault on the Jewish state two weeks ago.
In Egypt, where public gatherings were banned after the military seized power in 2013, tens of thousands took to the streets of Cairo and other cities as authorities sought to manage the wave of public anger.
The protests came 14 days after the Hamas onslaught, the deadliest attack in Israel’s 75-year history, which saw some 2,500 terrorists invade from Gaza by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing 200-250 hostages of all ages under the cover of a torrent of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.
The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists
The Hamas-run health ministry says that 4,100 Palestinians have since been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza. The figures released by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen, and the victims of a blast at a Gaza City hospital on October 17 caused by an Islamic Jihad missile misfire that Hamas has blamed on Israel.
In Cairo, several thousand people packed into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, an AFP correspondent reported.
“The people want the fall of Israel,” the demonstrators chanted, adapting the Arab Spring catchphrase: “The people want the fall of the regime.”
Public protests are generally illegal in Egypt but on Wednesday Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi told visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz he could “call on the Egyptian people to come out and express their rejection” of Israeli actions in Gaza “and you would see millions of Egyptians” in the street.
Later the same day, thousands took to the streets.
“There is a desire to take control of the public anger,” Cairo University politics professor Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid told AFP.
Media loyal to the Egyptian president had published a list of public squares and other sites where protests would be tolerated, calling on Egyptians to show their support for Sissi ahead of a presidential election due in December.
Cairo’s Tahrir Square was not among them, a matter of pride for many of those demonstrating on Friday.
“We’re not here to give a new mandate to anybody. It’s a genuine demonstration,” the crowd chanted.
Police later pushed protesters away from the square to nearby streets, the AFP correspondent reported.
Police made 26 arrests in Tahrir Square and 17 in nearby Abdeen, human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said on Facebook.
‘No to normalization’
In the Gulf state of Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords in 2020, some 2,000 worshippers at the Duraz mosque chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” at Friday prayers.
Around 1,000 people joined a march afterwards, shouting anti-Israel slogans including “No to normalization!”
“We want normalization to end and the Israeli ambassador expelled,” said one marcher, holding her baby in her arms.
In Baghdad, a few thousand people demonstrated on Friday, including sympathizers of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a coalition of armed factions close to Israel’s arch-foe Iran.
The demonstrators gathered at a bridge leading to the Green Zone, the fortified government and diplomatic compound where the US embassy is based.
“We support the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupier,” Ali Hussein, a 45-year-old taxi driver, told AFP.
Other Hashed supporters held a sit-in at Iraq’s Trebil border crossing with Jordan, the organizers and Iraqi officials said.
Demonstrators vowed to keep up their protest “until the roads are opened to send aid” to Gaza.
Images on social media which AFP was unable to independently verify showed several tents pitched near the crossing beneath Iraqi and Palestinian flags.
In Lebanon, dozens of Hezbollah supporters and others protested in a southern Beirut suburb calling for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza and to support Palestinians there.
“We salute the heroes of Gaza, the people of Gaza, the elderly, men, women and children,” said Hezbollah legislator Ali Ammar. Protesters waved Hezbollah, Lebanese, and Palestinian flags and burned an American flag.
Hezbollah and allied Palestinians have engaged in deadly exchanges of fire with Israel in towns along the Lebanon-Israel border. The Iran-backed terror group has threatened to escalate should Israel launch a ground invasion of Gaza, while Israel has vowed to retaliate aggressively in Lebanon should that happen.
The Lebanese government and international community fear a ground invasion could expand the war into the cash-strapped country and elsewhere in the region.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war that ended in a stalemate in 2006.
Calls to ‘destroy Tel Aviv’
In Tunisia, thousands gathered outside the French embassy to protest Western support for Israel, AFP correspondents reported.
“The French and the Americans are partners in the attack” against Palestinians, they chanted.
Some expressed support for Hamas, shouting “Dear (Izz ad-Din) al-Qassam (Brigades), destroy Tel Aviv,” in reference to the Islamist terror organization’s military branch.
A similar protest was held outside the US embassy in the capital’s northern suburbs, where demonstrators burnt a US flag.
Pro-Hamas protesters clashed with Jordanian security forces who prevented them from marching toward the border with the West Bank, and police made at least two arrests.
All roads to the border were closed, and a few thousand people were allowed to demonstrate in the Naour area, between the capital, Amman, and the border.
Protesters chanted pro-Hamas slogans and condemned the Jordanian government for blocking access to the border. They also demanded that all diplomatic relations with Israel be severed and its ambassador to Jordan expelled.
In Yemen, thousands demonstrated across the divided, war-torn country in support of Palestinians.
Large protests took place in the capital Sanaa, which is governed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, but also in the south where a secessionist group called the Southern Transitional Council has control.
In Sanaa, thousands waved Palestinian flags, chanting: “With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you… oh Palestinians.”
The Houthi rebels are staunch foes of Israel and the United States. Last week, the group’s leader warned the US against intervening in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, threatening that his forces would retaliate by firing drones and missiles.
On Thursday, a US Navy ship intercepted a number of missiles and drones launched from Yemen, apparently toward Israel. Unnamed Israeli officials told Hebrew-language media that the missiles were fired in the direction of Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces said the military is prepared to protect against potential attacks by the Houthis.
In Morocco, protesters holding banners and chanting slogans in support of Palestinians demonstrated outside a mosque after prayers in Salé, Morocco.
Participant Lahcen Farhi said he hoped the peaceful gathering would help the people of Gaza.
“At least we want the medicines to reach them, or … to stop the war,” he said, adding that expressions of support for Palestinians should be held “without violence and within the framework of the law.”
Some 1,000 Muslims marched along a busy thoroughfare in Kuala Lumpur after Friday prayers. Waving Palestinian flags, they gathered outside the US Embassy, which was under heavy security, to protest America’s support for Israel.
“Israel is just a big bully, and they are cowards because they are targeting the children, the hospital. [Palestinians] are helpless because they are denied all the basic things in life to survive, and yet [Israel] complained they are being bullied by Hamas,” said retiree Salwa Tamrin.
Chanting “Death to Israel, God is great,” many carried placards calling for an end to violence. “For me, Palestine is rightfully Palestinian, it’s not the place for Israelis. They went there and took the land” from the Palestinians, said activist Isyraf Imran.
Predominantly Muslim Malaysia, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Israel. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is in Saudi Arabia for the ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council summit, warned Friday that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza could widen into a regional and world conflict if no solution is found.
In Indonesia’s capital, demonstrators marched from several mosques to the heavily guarded US Embassy in Jakarta to denounce American support for Israel.
Similar protests also took place in front of the United Nations mission, a few kilometers from the embassy, and in the compound of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Authorities said about 1,000 people participated in the rallies across Jakarta following Friday prayers in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
Protesters who marched to the US Embassy halted traffic along the way as they chanted “God is great,” and “Save Palestinians.”
Waving Indonesian and Palestinian flags and signs reading “We are proud to support Palestine,” more than 100 noisy demonstrators gathered along a major street in Jakarta that runs outside the embassy.
Some burned portraits of US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
About 1,000 police were deployed around the embassy, the nearby presidential palace and the UN mission.
Indonesia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, and there is no Israeli embassy in the country. It’s a strong supporter of the Palestinians.
In Turkey, where the pro-Hamas government has declared three days of mourning in solidarity with the victims of a blast at a Gaza hospital, thousands of people staged protests outside mosques following Friday prayers in Istanbul and in the capital, Ankara.
Hamas blamed the blast on Israel, which has produced evidence showing the explosion was caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket misfire. The United States, also citing its own data, has endorsed the Israeli account.
In Istanbul, protesters affiliated with Islamic groups waved Turkish and Palestinian flags, held up placards and chanted slogans denouncing Israel’s actions in Gaza.
“Stop the genocide!” and “Murderer Israel get out of Palestine” some of the placards read. About a dozen men wearing red-stained doctors’ coats carried dolls depicting dead babies to protest the hospital blast, while some of the protesters set fire to an effigy of Netanyahu and an Israeli flag.
In contrast to protests earlier this week, when some demonstrators tried to enter Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul and flung fireworks at the Israeli Consulate, no violence was reported during Friday’s demonstrations.
Israel withdrew its diplomats from Turkey on Thursday over security concerns, officials said.