ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Cuban president leads pro-Palestinian march in front of US embassy in Havana

Some 100,000 people said to participate in anti-Israel rally, including Palestinian medical students studying in Latin American nation

(L-R) Cuba's Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel, and his wife Lis Cuesta take part in a march in support of the Palestinian people and against Israel's war with Hamas in Havana, Cuba on November 23, 2023. (Yamil Lage/AFP)
(L-R) Cuba's Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel, and his wife Lis Cuesta take part in a march in support of the Palestinian people and against Israel's war with Hamas in Havana, Cuba on November 23, 2023. (Yamil Lage/AFP)

Thousands of people led by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel marched along Havana’s iconic boardwalk Thursday in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people and demanding an end to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Wearing a black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh, Díaz-Canel was accompanied by Cuba’s main leaders, including Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.

The marchers walked for two kilometers (1.2 miles), passing in front of the US Embassy. As they passed the embassy on the seaside avenue, some yelled “fascist Yankees, you are terrorists.”

Palestinian medical students who were in Cuba as part of a cooperation program joined the rally.

“Today we are supporting the Palestinian people, supporting all those people who feel the pain of having lost a family member, a loved one due to this massacre,” said Yanquiel Cardoso, a physical culture specialist who participated. “We are asking for a ceasefire… and for Palestine to be free.”

Many young people had posters with the phrase “Free Palestine” with crude photographs of children injured by bombs or flags identifying both Cubans and Palestinians.

Others picked up chants of “free, free Palestine, Israel is genocide” and “up with Palestinian freedom,” Reuters reported.

“This march means a lot to us,” said Sami Sabala, a 26-year-old Palestinian medical student in Havana. “It raises feelings … And it makes people feel that Palestine is not alone.”

The Interior Ministry said on X, formerly Twitter, that 100,000 people took part in the hour-long march, convened by associations of youth groups in the communist-run nation.

People participating in a march in support of the Palestinian people and in opposition to Israel in Havana, Cuba on November 23, 2023. (Photo by Yamil Lage / AFP)

Israel’s war with the ruling Gaza terror group began on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst through the border with Israel, unleashing the deadliest attack in the country’s history.

At least 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel, most of them civilians, and some 240 were taken hostage. Entire families were slaughtered in their homes, and over 360 people were mowed down at an outdoor music festival.

In response, Israel vowed to topple Hamas’s 15-year rule in Gaza and return the hostages, and launched an aerial offensive and subsequent ground campaign to meet those goals.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says that more than 14,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of war. However, the death toll cannot be independently verified.

This is the second time that Cuba’s top leaders have participated in solidarity rallies since the war began. Last week, the Palestinian flag was projected on the monument to José Martí, the most iconic in the Caribbean capital.

The rare march was the first of its kind in about a decade, as the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro was known to stage similar demonstrations to protest the US before his death in 2016.

Communist-run Cuba has been a longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause and hasn’t had diplomatic ties with Israel since 1973.

People take part in a march in support of the Palestinian people and against Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza in Havana, Cuba, on November 23, 2023. (Yamil Lage/AFP)

Prior to the war, Cuba was one of just two Latin American nations without ties to Israel, Venezuela being the other after it ended its relationship in 2009.

But since October 7, several other Latin American countries have joined Cuba, severing or downgrading their diplomatic ties with Israel.

On November 14, the Central American country of Belize announced that it would be suspending diplomatic ties with Israel, citing “unceasing indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza as its reason for doing so.

Two weeks prior, on November 1, Bolivia broke off relations with Israel after restoring them just three years earlier and accused the country of “carrying out crimes against humanity.”

At the same time, Chile, Colombia and Honduras have all recalled their ambassadors.

In contrast, Argentinian president-elect Javier Milei is a vocal backer of Israel and has vociferously condemned Hamas’s October 7 terror attack. In a recent interview with The Times of Israel, he cited an Argentine rabbi as his spiritual guide and said he’d move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

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