Tens of thousands protest across Mideast after Hamas called for ‘Day of Rage’

Demonstrators rally in multiple cities, burning flags and chanting for Israel’s destruction

Protesters burn Israeli flags during a demonstration at Tahrir Square in Baghdad on October 13, 2023 (Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP)
Protesters burn Israeli flags during a demonstration at Tahrir Square in Baghdad on October 13, 2023 (Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP)

Tens of thousands of Muslims demonstrated Friday across the Middle East in a “Day of Rage” called by Hamas in support of the Palestinians and against the intensifying Israeli bombardment of Gaza following Hamas’s massacre of 1,300 people in southern Israel last Saturday, underscoring the risk of a wider regional conflict as Israel prepares for a possible ground operation.

A statement on the Israeli Foreign Ministry website had warned that Hamas had called on “all of its supporters around the world to hold a ‘Day of Rage'” on Friday to “attack Israelis and Jews.”

From the typically sedate streets of downtown Amman in Jordan, to Yemen’s war-scarred capital of Sanaa, crowds of Muslim worshipers poured into the streets after weekly Friday prayers, angered by intensive Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The IAF went into action after the terror group Hamas launched an unprecedented and devastating surprise attack on Israel in which some 1,300 were killed, most of them civilians who were slaughtered. Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas’s capacity to harm Israelis, and says it is targeting anywhere Hamas operates.

At the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli police were permitting only certain older men, women and children to enter the flashpoint compound for prayers, trying to limit the potential for violence. Only 5,000 worshipers made it into the site, the Islamic endowment that manages the mosque said. On a typical Friday, some 50,000 perform the prayers.

Young Palestinian men who were refused entry gathered at the steps near Lion’s Gate until police shepherded them outside the Old City ramparts altogether.

“We can’t live, we can’t breathe, they are killing everything that is good within us,” said Ahmad Barbour, a 57-year-old cleaner, red-faced and seething after police blocked him from entering for prayers.

“Everything that is forbidden to us is allowed to them,” he added, referring to the Israelis.

Palestinian worshipers pray outside Jerusalem’s Old City while Israeli forces stand guard, Oct. 13, 2023 (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The mosque sits in a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam and stands atop the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Hundreds of young Palestinian worshipers who had been turned away from the Old City threw down small prayer rugs on the street in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz and prayed in the open. When some of the men started shouting, Israeli police charged into the crowd with batons and fired rounds of tear gas at the worshipers, wounding at least six people, said the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Thousands demonstrated in Amman in neighboring Jordan, some crying out: “We are going to Jerusalem as millions of martyrs!”

“What do they want from Palestine? Do they expect them to leave?” asked protester Omar Abu-Sundos. “For what remains of Palestine to leave? They won’t leave.”

Jordanian protesters attempting to reach the Israel-controlled Jordanian border with the West Bank clashed with police, according to reports.

In Beirut, thousands of supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group waved Lebanese, Palestinian and Hezbollah flags, chanting slogans in support of Gaza and calling for “death to Israel.” The Iranian-backed terror group in neighboring Lebanon has launched sporadic attacks on Israel since the Hamas assault.

A Hezbollah supporter holds up an Arabic placard that reads: ‘It will definitely fall,’ during a protest to show their solidarity with the Palestinians, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 13, 2023 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general warned that it would be “on the lookout” for the United States and British naval vessels heading to the Mediterranean Sea. US officials, including President Joe Biden, have repeatedly warned Iran and the regional militias backed by Tehran to stay out of the conflict between Israel and the Gaza terror groups.

“Your battleships do not interest us, nor do your statements frighten us,” Naim Kassim said at a rally in a southern suburb of Beirut. “When the time is right to take action, we will do so.”

In Baghdad, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square — the protest hub of Iraq’s capital — for rallies called by the influential Shiite cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

“We, as Iraqis, know the pain of having an occupier on our land,” said protester Alaa al-Arabyia, referring to the US occupation of Iraq following its 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. “Palestinian women have husbands, loved ones and sons fighting the occupation. We stand with them in their struggle.”

Across Iran, a supporter of Hamas and Israel’s regional archenemy, demonstrators also streamed into the streets after prayers. In Tehran, they burned Israeli and American flags, chanting: “Death to Israel,” “Death to America,” “Israel will be doomed,” and “Palestine will be the conqueror.”

Iranian worshipers burn a representation of the Israeli flag in Tehran, Iran, Oct. 13, 2023. (AP Photo)

“The Palestinian people are fed up, now your idea is to destroy Gaza, the houses of the people,” Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi said in a speech in the country’s southern Fars province. “The people of the world and Palestine will cause trouble for you.”

In the Syrian capital of Damascus, protesters also rallied.

“I tell the people not to leave their homes otherwise they will be like our grandparents who left Palestine and came to Syria but never returned,” Ahmad Saeed, a 23-year-old Palestinian living in Syria, said, referring to the 1948 War of Independence.

In Yemen’s Sanaa, held by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels still at war with a Saudi-led coalition, demonstrators crowded the streets waving Yemeni and Palestinian flags. The rebels’ slogan long has been: “God is the greatest; death to America; death to Israel; curse of the Jews; victory to Islam.”

“We are ready to participate actively and send hundreds of thousands of mujahedeen … .to defend Palestine, the Palestinian people and the holy sites,” the Houthi government said in a statement Friday.

After Friday prayers, Egyptian demonstrators ringed the historic Al-Azhar Mosque in downtown Cairo, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, chanting that Israel remained their enemy “generation after generation.” They repeated the traditionally nationalistic slogan, “We give our souls and blood to Al-Aqsa.”

In Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, some worshipers trampled on American and Israeli flags.

Demonstrators drag an Israel flag during a rally to show solidarity with Palestinians, in Quetta on October 13, 2023 (Banaras KHAN / AFP)

“International media and international courts turn a blind eye to the injustices with the Palestinians. But they only notice the actions that the Palestinians take to defend themselves,” said Faheem Ahmed, a worshiper in Karachi. “They call it terrorism.”

There was increased security at Jewish institutions around the world, amid concerns of potential attacks.

In China, an Israeli embassy worker was stabbed and wounded on Friday. The attack was under investigation — it was not clear if it was connected to the “Day of Rage.”

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