Thousands in Muslim countries around the world demonstrate over Israeli airstrikes

Demonstrators headed to Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank and gathered in Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen and other countries

Yemenis gather during a pro-Palestinian protest to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, in Sanaa, Yemen, October 20, 2023
Yemenis gather during a pro-Palestinian protest to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, in Sanaa, Yemen, October 20, 2023.HOUTHI MEDIA CENTER (via REUTERS)

Thousands of people in Muslim countries and beyond held demonstrations Friday in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. They called for an end to Israel’s blockade and airstrikes following a brutal incursion into southern Israel by fighters from the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza.

Demonstrators headed to Israeli military checkpoints after Friday prayers in the West Bank and gathered in Iraq at the country’s border crossing with Jordan; in Jordan itself; in locations across Egypt; in Turkey’s capital Ankara and its most populous city of Istanbul; and in Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco and South Africa.

A Tuesday night explosion at a Gaza City hospital tending to wounded Palestinians and residents seeking shelter was a prominent theme in some of the demonstrations. The cause of the blast at al-Ahli Hospital has not been determined.

U.S. assessments said the explosion was not caused by an Israeli airstrike, as the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza initially reported. Israel has presented video, audio and other evidence it says proves the blast was caused by a rocket misfired by Palestinian militants, who denied responsibility. The Associated Press has not independently verified any of the claims or evidence released by the parties.

The Israeli siege of the Palestinian territory and airstrikes on it were the focus earlier this week of demonstrations at Egyptian universities, inside a congressional office building in Washington, outside the Israeli Embassy in Bogota, Colombia and near the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

Nearly two weeks after the Hamas attack in Israel, such protests continued as Israel prepared for an expected ground invasion of Gaza. The Gaza Health Ministry has said more than 4,000 people have been killed and over 13,000 wounded in Gaza since the war began, most of them women, children and older adults. More than 1,000 people were believed buried under rubble, authorities said.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians slain during Hamas’ deadly incursion. Roughly 200 others were abducted.

West Bank

Protests erupted in the main cities of the occupied West Bank on Friday following midday prayers. Palestinians streamed out of mosques and headed to Israeli military checkpoints in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem, where they threw stones at troops and burned tires. Israeli security forces responded firing tear gas and live rounds.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in the West Bank reported that 21 people were wounded by soldiers’ gunfire. Tensions were particularly high in Hebron, where Hamas activists called for big protests. Hebron residents shared copies of leaflets they said were dropped across the city by Israeli military drones warning that anyone “who demonstrates on behalf of Hamas will be pursued.” There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

In Tulkarem, militants carried rifles and shots rang out Friday during a funeral for 13 people killed in a battle with Israeli troops in the Nur Shams refugee camp. The past 13 days since the eruption of the war have been the deadliest in decades in the West Bank, with more than 80 Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers.


Thousands of Egyptians demonstrated in cities and towns across the North African country, in an expression of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. In a rare move, the Egyptian government approved and even helped organize 27 locations for protesters to gather on Friday. Since coming to power in 2013, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has outlawed large public protests. But pro-Palestinian protests broke out in undesignated areas too.

Hundreds gathered in the courtyard of the Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, in central Cairo. “Oh Al-Aqsa, do not worry, we will redeem you with our soul and blood,” they chanted after Friday’s midday prayer. The Al-Aqsa mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam situated in Jerusalem’s contested Old City, a spot also known to Jews as the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism.

In a demonstration not among those approved by the government, scores of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, where they were cordoned off by security forces. The downtown Cairo square was the focal point of the 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. In official demonstration spots located in every major Egyptian city, state TV showed protesters waving flags and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans.

While Egypt has functioning relations with both Israel and Hamas, the overwhelming majority of Egyptians harbor sympathy toward Palestinians and their desire for independence. Over the past week, el-Sissi has publicly criticized Israel, accusing Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause by pushing Gaza’s inhabitants onto Egyptian territory.


Dozens of supporters of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group and others protested in a southern Beirut suburb calling for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza and to support Palestinians there. “We salute the heroes of Gaza, the people of Gaza, the elderly, men, women and children,” said Hezbollah legislator Ali Ammar. Protesters waved Hezbollah, Lebanese, and Palestinian flags and burned an American flag.

Hezbollah and the Israeli military have skirmished in towns along the Lebanon-Israel border. The militant group has threatened to escalate should Israel launch a ground invasion of Gaza, while Israel has vowed to retaliate aggressively in Lebanon should that happen.

The Lebanese government and international community fear a ground invasion could expand the war into the cash-strapped country and elsewhere in the region.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war that ended in a stalemate in 2006.


In Turkey, where the government has declared three days of mourning in solidarity with the victims of a blast at a Gaza hospital, thousands of people staged protests outside mosques following Friday prayers in Istanbul and in the capital, Ankara.

In Istanbul, protesters affiliated with Islamic groups waved Turkish and Palestinian flags, held up placards and chanted slogans denouncing Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“Stop the genocide!” and “Murderer Israel get out of Palestine” some of the placards read. About a dozen men wearing red-stained doctors’ coats carried dolls depicting dead babies to protest the hospital blast, while some of the protesters set fire to an effigy of the Israeli prime minister and an Israeli flag.

In contrast to protests earlier this week, when some demonstrators tried to enter Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul and flung fireworks at the Israeli Consulate, no violence was reported during Friday’s demonstrations. Israel withdrew its diplomats from Turkey on Thursday over security concerns, officials said.


Hundreds of Iraqi protesters gathered at the western Trebil border crossing near Jordan in a demonstration organized by the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Iran-backed Shia political groups and militias in Iraq.

The pro-Iran coalition also called for a protest in Baghdad near the main gate of the highly fortified international zone, where the U.S. Embassy is located, to condemn its endorsement of Israel in the ongoing war with Hamas.

Their rival, Iraq’s firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the most influential in the country, issued a call Thursday for Arab nations bordering Israel, notably Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, to engage in what he called peaceful demonstrations at their borders.

The protesters waved Palestinian flags and chanted “No to Israel” before praying in the presence of religious clerics. In recent days, Iran-backed militias attacked United States military bases in Iraq. Iran has warned that an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza could spark an escalation from allied armed groups and a possible regional war.


Pro-Hamas protesters clashed with Jordanian security forces who prevented them from marching toward the border with the occupied West Bank, and police made at least two arrests. All roads to the border were closed, and a few thousand people were allowed to demonstrate in the Naour area, between the capital, Amman, and the border.

Protesters chanted pro-Hamas slogans and condemned the Jordanian government for blocking access to the border. They also demanded that all diplomatic relations with Israel be severed and its ambassador to Jordan expelled.


Thousands of Yemenis demonstrated across the divided, war-torn country in support of Palestinians. Large protests took place in the capital Sanaa, which is governed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, but also in the south where a secessionist group called the Southern Transitional Council has control. In Sanaa, thousands waved Palestinian flags, chanting: “With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you ... oh Palestinians.”

The Houthi rebels are staunch foes of Israel and the United States. Last week, the group’s leader warned the U.S. against intervening in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, threatening that his forces would retaliate by firing drones and missiles. The Houthis regularly organize pro-Palestinian marches during times of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.


Protesters holding banners and chanting slogans in support of Palestinians demonstrated outside a mosque after prayers in Salé, Morocco. Participant Lahcen Farhi said he hoped the peaceful gathering would help the people of Gaza.

“At least we want the medicines to reach them, or ... to stop the war,” he said, adding that expressions of support for Palestinians should be held “without violence and within the framework of the law.”


Some 1,000 Muslims marched along a busy thoroughfare in Kuala Lumpur after Friday prayers, calling for an end to the killing in Gaza.

Waving Palestinian flags, they gathered outside the U.S. Embassy, which was under heavy security, to protest America’s support for Israel.

“Israel is just a big bully, and they are cowards because they are targeting the children, the hospital. (Palestinians) are helpless because they are denied all the basic things in life to survive, and yet (Israel) complained they are being bullied by Hamas,” said retiree Salwa Tamrin.

Chanting “Death to Israel, God is great,” many carried placards calling for an end to violence. “For me Palestine is rightfully Palestinian, it’s not the place for Israelis. They went there and took the land” from the Palestinians, said activist Isyraf Imran.

Predominantly Muslim Malaysia, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Israel. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is in Saudi Arabia for the ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council summit, warned Friday that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza could widen into a regional and world conflict if no solution is found.


In Indonesia’s capital, demonstrators marched from several mosques to the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy in Jakarta to denounce American support for Israel.

Similar protests also took place in front of the United Nations mission, a few kilometers (miles) from the embassy, and in the compound of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Authorities said about 1,000 people participated in the rallies across Jakarta following Friday prayers in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Protesters who marched to the U.S. Embassy halted traffic along the way as they chanted “God is great,” and “Save Palestinians.”

Waving Indonesian and Palestinian flags and signs reading “We are proud to support Palestine,” more than 100 noisy demonstrators gathered along a major street in Jakarta that runs outside the embassy.

Some burned portraits of President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. About 1,000 police were deployed around the embassy, the nearby presidential palace and the U.N. mission.

Indonesia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, and there is no Israeli embassy in the country. It’s a strong supporter of the Palestinians. President Joko Widodo strongly condemned the Gaza City hospital blast. “Now is the time for the world to stand together to build global solidarity to resolve the Palestinian issue fairly,” Widodo said from Saudi Arabia, where he was attending the ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council summit.


Rome’s Jewish community has remembered the estimated 203 people believed held by Hamas by setting a long Shabbat table for them outside the capital’s main synagogue and empty chairs for each of the hostages.

On the backs of each chair was a flyer featuring the name, age and photo of each missing person. On the table were candles, wine and loaves of challah, the braided bread typically eaten during the Friday night meal. The same flyers appeared on billboards elsewhere in downtown Rome.

The Israeli government has said Hamas is holding an estimated 203 people after militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7. At least two Italian-Israelis are believed to be among them.

The head of Rome’s Jewish community, Victor Fadlun, said the community hoped for as few victims as possible. He said the Palestinian people as well were suffering and were “hostages” of Hamas. He said: “From them we must wait for a helping hand and hope that there will be a proper solution for everyone.”

South Africa

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators led by South Africa’s ruling African National Congress protested at the Israel embassy in the capital Pretoria.

More than 1,000 protesters brought traffic to a standstill as they marched through the streets. It was the biggest such demonstration in South Africa, where the Palestinian cause continues to enjoy significant support.

ANC leaders, including the head of the party in Gauteng province, Panyaza Lesufi, and first deputy secretary general Nomvula Mokonyane led the protesters through the streets of Pretoria. The ANC’s political allies, including the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Union, also joined the march.

The ANC has expressed its solidarity with the Palestinian people, emphasizing their long relationship dating back to the days of the racial policy of apartheid implemented by the white minority government.Its youth leader, Collen Malatji, called on the South African government to ban all Israeli imports and businesses in South Africa.

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