Protests against Gaza attack sweep across the world

The streets in Jakarta were filled with protesters today (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty)

From Jakarta to London, a wave of protest erupted across the world today against Israel’s assault on Gaza.

More than 10,000 marched through the Indonesian capital and Israeli flags were burnt and trampled upon in Asia as the Palestinian death toll in the offensive rose above 430, including three young brothers killed this morning.

Thirty new Israeli raids struck the Gaza Strip today as thousands of Hamas supporters attended the funeral of Nizar Rayan, the most senior Hamas victim of the offensive. He was killed with his four wives and 11 of his children in another Israeli raid yesterday.

Hamas leaders responded by calling for a “Day of Wrath” to avenge the deaths as the party warned that it may resume suicide attacks against Israel for the first time since January 2005.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, accused Hamas of holding the people of Gaza hostage. She said Washington was working to secure a ceasefire but reiterated the Bush Administration’s argument that any end to the conflict would hinge on the willingness of Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.

“Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup against the forces of President Mahmoud Abbas [leader of the rival Fatah party],” she said.

“We are working toward a ceasefire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo ante, where Hamas could launch rockets,” Dr Rice said. “It’s obvious that a ceasefire should take place as soon as possible but we want a ceasefire that is durable and sustainable.”

In Egypt, which shares a border with Israel and Gaza, thousands of riot police have been deployed in a bid to calm growing anger. Around 5,000 people gathered to protest in the city of Ismailia. “We demand the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador,” read one banner.

Egyptian police detained 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo as protests turned violent, witnesses claimed that at least one demonstrator was beaten with truncheons.

Thousands of protesters who gathered in Istanbul burnt Israeli flags. They marched through the Turkish city waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Israeli murderers, get out of Palestine” and “Muslims, don’t sleep, defend Palestine”.

Bulent Gedikli, a senior official from Turkey’s ruling party, did little to soothe the frustration by condemning the Israeli aerial bombardment as “a crime against humanity”. In reference to the attack on President Bush last month, he claimed that Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, “deserved a pair of shoes to be thrown at him”.

Around 3,000 Afghans held a similar demonstration in Kabul, burning Israeli flags and chanting anti-American slogans. A smaller protest was also held in the Philippines where demonstrators carried placards saying Israel is a “butcher of children” and accusing it of war crimes.

Reihana Melencio, who organised the protest, 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.

In Jakarta, men, women and children attending the Indonesian rally organised 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 US Embassy, which was guarded by hundreds of police.

In London, a group of politicians and celebrities held a press conference to condemn the attacks ahead of a major rally to be held in the city tomorrow. Smaller protests have been held outside the Israeli embassy throughout the week.

Alexei Sayle, an actor and comedian, said he was speaking out because it was important for Jewish voices to be heard.

He said: “I want to feel proud of Israel, I want to be proud of my people but I am ashamed.”

Despite worldwide condemnation, the population of Israel appear to be strongly in favour of the bombing campaign targeting Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza.

A poll today suggested that some 95 per cent of Israel’s Jewish population supports the bombardment of Hamas.

Eighty per cent of the poll of 800 people backed the operation “without reservation,” according to the survey published in the Maariv newspaper.

Even the leftwing Meretz party, which normally opposes such operations, gave its blessing to the offensive.

January 2, 2009

Source: Times Online

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