Gaza attacks spark protests
Muslim rallies around the world draw thousands
CAIRO - Thousands protested yesterday against Israel's air offensive targeting Hamas at demonstrations in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.
Similar protests have been held daily across the Middle East since Israel launched the bombing campaign last Saturday. But these gatherings held mostly after prayer services were larger, mainly because Friday prayers are a traditional gathering opportunity for Muslims. The protests also occurred in more countries.
In Tehran, a crowd of about 6,000 extending for a half-mile marched from prayers at Tehran University to Palestine Square, chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" and burning Israeli flags.
Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, warned Israel that entering Gaza "by land will be the biggest mistake of the Zionist regime."
Iran is a major backer of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, giving it millions of dollars. The United States and Israel accuse Iran of giving weapons and rockets to Hamas, though Tehran denies arming Hamas.
In Egypt, authorities clamped down hard to prevent protests yesterday. Hundreds of riot police surrounded Cairo's main Al-Azhar Mosque, where a rally had been called, and scuffled with would-be protesters, keeping most from approaching.
Police also arrested 40 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood that called for protests. More than 3,000 people marched in the northern Sinai city of el-Arish.
In Jordan, police fired tear gas and scuffled with protesters who tried to reach the Israeli Embassy in Amman. A few of the protesters threw stones at police, and several people were arrested.
About 30,000 Jordanians gathered at a stadium in Amman shouting their support for Gaza and calling for the abolition of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty signed in 1994.
More than 10,000 Muslims marched through Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, to protest the ongoing bombing raids.
In the Afghan capital of Kabul, about 3,000 people gathered outside a mosque, according to police estimates. Men in the crowd threw stones and shoes at an effigy of President Bush.
In Turkey, Israel's closest ally in the region, about 5,000 people denounced the Israeli raids outside a mosque in Istanbul, burning Israeli and US flags and reciting funeral prayers for the victims. In Syria, some 2,000 marched in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus.
President Bashar Assad of Syria talked with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday and called on the Security Council to adopt a resolution ordering Israel to immediately halt its Gaza offensive, Syria's official news agency SANA reported.
In Sudan, thousands marched in downtown Khartoum, urging Muslims to jihad and denouncing Israel and America. Protests continued as well in the Palestinian territories.