Global Protests Condemn Gaza Attacks

Demonstrators hold banners and flags during a protest against Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip in front of the Israeli embassy in Bern, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Keystone, Marcel Bieri)[Click image for details ]
AP Photo/Keystone, Marcel Bieri
Protests against the Israeli bombardment of the Hamas-run Palestinian territory, now in its seventh day, have swept several Mideast capitals and other major cities worldwide as demonstrator condemn Israel's air strikes which have killed more than 400 and wounded about 1,700 others.

More than 10,000 Muslims marched through Indonesia's capital on Friday to protest the ongoing bombing raids in Gaza, aiming fake missiles labeled "Target: Tel Aviv, Israel" at the U.S. Embassy.

Men, women and children attending the rally in Jakarta organized by the Islamic-based Justice and Prosperity Party waved Indonesian and Palestinian flags and shouted "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great."

Many wore traditional white robes and held banners that read: "Save Palestine from Israel, the terrorist." They marched to the U.S. Embassy, which was guarded by hundreds of police.

"President-elect (Barack) Obama, we're watching you," party leader Tifatul Sembiring told the crowd. "If you want peace in the world, change the U.S. attitude toward Israel, don't support
Israel."

Police estimated that at least 10,000 people were at the demonstration in Jakarta, but Associated Press reporters at the scene said the numbers were much higher.

Protests were also held after Friday prayers in other Indonesian cities, in what was the largest turnout since Israel began the operation last Saturday, intended to end weeks of intensifying rocket fire from Gaza.

The vast majority of Indonesian Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam. Although they support the creation of a Palestinian state, most oppose violence against Israel.

Iranian Protestors Label Gaza Bombardment A "Real Holocaust"

Emotions in Mideast capitals, where demonstrations began shortly after Friday prayers, were hotter. Similar protests have been held daily in Tehran, Cairo, Amman and Damascus since Israel launched its bombing campaign last Saturday, but these gatherings were larger - mainly because Friday prayers are a traditional opportunity for Muslims to assemble in great numbers.

In Tehran, a crowd of about 6,000 stretching 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

They also carried banners reading: "Don't kill Children" and "Real Holocaust is happening in Gaza," while some vowed to "fight and defend Gaza."

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran's most powerful politician-clerics, said in a sermon to several thousand worshippers that an Israeli military defeat in Gaza would be a "scandal" for its government and that, even if the Hamas government there collapses, Palestinian "resistance" will only expand.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned Israel that entering Gaza "by land will be the biggest mistake of the Zionist regime." He vowed Israel would be "defeated" in a ground attack.

Iran is a major backer of Hamas, giving it millions of dollars. Israel and the U.S. accuse Iran of providing the Palestinian militant group with newer, more sophisticated rockets, but Tehran denies arming the group.

In his prayer sermon, Rafsanjani said Hamas had a new anti-tank weapon that it had not used before but would unleash if Israel ground troops move in, but he did not elaborate.

In Srinagar, capital of Indian Kashmir, hundreds of protesters fought pitched battles with security forces on Friday while protesting against the continuing Israeli raids on Gaza.

The protesters gathered outside the Jamia mosque after Friday prayers and burnt Israeli and American flags while shouting anti-Israel slogans.

Protesters pelted stones at the security forces who charged at them with batons and tear gas.

U.S.-allied Arab governments like Egypt fear that Hamas and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah are giving a foothold for Iran. They have been critical of Hamas - which took over Gaza in 2007 in battles with loyalists of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - and of Syria for backing its allies Iran and Hamas.

Pro-U.S. governments have been wary about protests at home over Israel's Gaza assault, which Israel says is aimed at silencing Hamas rockets.

In Jordan, police fired volleys of tear gas and scuffled with dozens of protesters who tried to push through a barrier to reach the Israeli Embassy in Amman. A few of the protesters threw stones at police, but the security forces dispersed the group, arresting several.

Hundreds more protesters marched peacefully nearby the embassy, calling for its closure and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries with peace agreements and diplomatic relations with Israel.

Egypt clamped down hard to prevent protests Friday. 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.

At another Cairo mosque dominated by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, police set up security checkpoints and inspected worshippers' ID cards. Around the capital, police arrested 40 members of the Brotherhood, which had called for pro-Gaza rallies.

In the southern Cairo suburb of Maadi, one mosque preacher called for holy war for Gaza and several protesters marched nearby, shouting: "Let us go to jihad," or holy war.

More than 3,000 people marched in solidarity with Gaza in the northern Sinai city of el-Arish, Egypt's closest city to Gaza. On the border, dozens of Sinai Bedouins raced around in cars in the town of Rafah, firing their guns into the air.

In Syria, some 2,000 marched in Damascus' Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, carrying Palestinian flags and chanting "Jihad will unite us," and later burned an Israeli flag.

In Sudan, thousands marched in downtown Khartoum from mosques to the main Martyrs Square, urging Muslims to jihad and denouncing Israel and America.

Small protests erupted as well in the Palestinian territories. In an Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem, a group of youths threw stones and smashed large blocks while Israeli anti-riot police on horseback dispersed them.

Three dozen Palestinian women marched out of Jerusalem's Damascus Gate chanting, calling for revenge and urging Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to hit Tel Aviv with missiles. Police dispersed the crowd.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, thousands demonstrated in solidarity with Gazans, calling for Palestinian unity and accusing Arab leaders of silence over Israel's bombardment.

Effigies Burned In Afghanistan

In the Afghan capital of Kabul, about 3,000 people gathered outside a prominent mosque after Friday prayers, according to police estimates. Men in the crowd threw stones and shoes at an effigy of President George W. Bush.

Kabul Police Chief Ayoub Salangi said some 250 Afghan police monitored the gathering to make sure it remained peaceful. No violence was reported.

A cleric who spoke to the crowd said Afghans supported a "holy war" against Israel, in support of the Palestinian people. The cleric condemned America's support of Israel and led the crowd in chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

Leaders at the Afghan protest asked the crowd for volunteers to help in a Palestinian fight against Israel.

Asadullah Shahid, a protestor, said he had gathered to condemn the Israeli attacks and "announce our support to innocent Palestinians."

Another, Sayed Mushtaba, said that all "Afghan youths will stand against Israel, America and Jews till the last drop of their blood and we will defend Palestine."

Meanwhile, in Moscow, protesters marched on Friday outside the Israeli Embassy in Russia.

Clutching Palestinian and Azerbaijan flags, the protesters chanted "God is great," as well as anti-Israel and anti-American slogans.

(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian police arrested some protesters, dragging them into police vans, before herding the rest of the protesters away.

Rashit, a Muslim from Moscow, said that children, women and old men were being killed in Palestine, and that while people around the world were protesting "we are banned from telling the truth."

In the Philippines, dozens of demonstrators gathered in Manila, carrying placards saying Israel is a "butcher of children" and accusing it of war crimes.

Organizer Reihana Melencio accused Israel of genocide.

"This is one of the strongest militaries on earth and attacking a people who can only shoot back some old rockets, sticks and stones," she said.

Preparations For Demonstrations In London, Los Angeles

In London, celebrities and politicians lent their voice on Friday ahead of a planned demonstration on Saturday, to condemn Israel's actions as well as Hamas' rocket-fire response.

The high-profile campaigners called for an immediate end to the Israeli operation in Gaza.

(AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, comedian and writer Alexei Sayle, and human rights advocate Bianca Jagger were among the speakers.

The demonstration on Saturday, which is expected to draw thousands of people, will march on Whitehall to call for an immediate end to the violence.

Lennox said the issue went beyond religion, Jewish or Muslim.

"There has to be a place, ultimately, where people come to the table," she said. "How many more people will be slaughtered before we get there, and is this the way to go about it? I, absolutely, don't think so."

In Los Angeles, Palestinian demonstrators plan to rally today, as pro-Israel supporters hold their own protests.

The demonstrations come after hundreds from both sides protested in front of L.A.'s Israeli Consulate on Tuesday.

Pro-Israel demonstrators say they plan to rally today outside of the Federal Building starting at 11 a.m. PST.

Pro-Palestinian supporters have announced an emergency demonstration set for 4:30 p.m. outside of the Israeli Consulate. Supporters of Israel have also planned a counter protest at the location.