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Thousands protest across Middle East in support of Palestinians

Thousands of protesters poured onto the streets of several Middle East capitals Friday in support of Palestinians amid Israeli air strikes on Gaza in reprisal for a surprise Hamas attack. “No to the occupation! No to America!” chanted demonstrators gathered in central Baghdad after Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr called for a protest “in support of Gaza” and against Israel, an AFP journalist reported. “This rally is aimed at condemning what is happening in occupied Palestine, the bloodletting and the violation of rights,” said Abu Kayan, an organiser of the protest. The besieged Gaza Strip has been under heavy Israeli bombardment since Saturday when Hamas militants stormed Israel’s southern border on Saturday and killed more than 1,300 people. The Israeli strikes have killed more than 1,530 people in the Gaza Strip, which has already been under a land, sea and air blockade for more than 15 years. Anti-Israel protests were also held in Iran on Friday. In the capital Tehran, demonstrators waved Iranian, Palestinian, and Lebanese Hezbollah flags and held banners reading “Down with America” and “Down with Israel”, an AFP journalist said. Similar gatherings took place in other cities across Iran, where American and Israeli flags were burned. Iran, a country with a predominantly Shiite Muslim but non-Arab population, financially and militarily supports Hamas. Israel is their mutual sworn enemy. In Jordan, which has long had a peace treaty with neighbouring Israel, more than 10,000 people gathered in central Amman, near the Grand Husseini Mosque, after a call for protests from the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, and several leftist and youth groups. In the Gulf state of Bahrain, hundreds of worshippers chanted “Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!” ahead of Friday prayers at Diraz mosque. Hundreds of people then joined a protest march, some of them waving Palestinian flags and others stamping on Israeli and US emblems that were laid on the ground. In the Saudi capital Riyadh, where protests are prohibited, an AFP journalist witnessed police cuffing a worshipper who interrupted Friday prayers by shouting at the imam: “Speak about Palestine! Gaza is under bombs!”. In France, where President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday called on Israel to deal a “strong” but “just” response to the Hamas attack, the government issued a ban on “pro-Palestinian demonstrations because they are likely to generate disturbances to public order.”

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