Tens of thousands rally against Israel
Arabs should join war, Gadhafi says
CAIRO - An estimated 50,000 people protested in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria after Friday prayers yesterday, joining thousands of people in more than a dozen cities in the Middle East and elsewhere rallying against the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The protests coincided with a call from President Moammar Gadhafi of Libya for Arab countries to allow their citizens to fight the Israelis in Gaza. It was the strongest such push by an Arab leader since Israel began its operation against the militant Palestinian group Hamas two weeks ago.
"I call on the Arabs to open the gate for volunteers to fight with the Palestinians," Libya's official news agency JANA quoted Gadhafi as saying.
The protesters who thronged the streets of Alexandria berated Egypt for not opening its border with Gaza, chanting "Shame on Egypt." Egypt has allowed a trickle of wounded Palestinians to enter the country but has resisted demands to grant more of Gaza's 1.4 million citizens entry.
The prayer leader in the Iranian capital of Tehran also criticized President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt for not opening the country's border with Gaza.
"Are you a servant of Israel?" said Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati before thousands of Iranians took to the streets chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." The Alexandria protest - the largest such demonstration in Egypt - saw 50,000, according to a Cairo police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Record numbers of protesters also turned out in Algeria's capital, an indication of growing international resentment against the Gaza offensive, which Israel has said is designed to stop Hamas rocket fire into the country. More than 750 Palestinians have died since the offensive began.
Many of about 30,000 protesters in Algiers waved Palestinian or Algerian flags in one of the biggest demonstrations there in years. The rally defied a standing government ban on protests after Muslim prayers.
The demonstration was mostly peaceful in the downtown, but violence erupted in the upscale El Biar neighborhood, where most foreign embassies and the presidential palace are located.
Police in Jordan's capital of Amman fired tear gas to disperse more than 2,000 people who protested to show support for the Palestinians and demand that the Israeli Embassy be closed. Many of the protesters held photos of the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, praising him for expelling the Israeli ambassador.