BERLIN (Reuters) – Several thousand people in Berlin protested against Israel’s bombing campaign in Lebanon on Friday, joining angry protests across the Middle East this week.
“Israel drinks the blood of our children,” said one of the posters carried by a demonstrator draped in a Lebanese flag in the German capital.
“Stop Israel’s war!” said another, referring to the 10-day bombing campaign in Lebanon which has destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure.
Many protesters carried Lebanese flags, though Palestinian, Iranian and Syrian flags were also visible. The crowd was mostly a mix of Middle Eastern immigrants and foreigners in Germany.
There have been similar demonstrations around the Middle East in recent days. Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of the capital Sanaa to condemn the Israeli offensive.
Thousands of Jordanians also took to the streets of Amman on Friday to support the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hizbollah guerrillas which are the target of an Israeli military offensive.
The protesters, most of them Islamists, chanted in support of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah and called for attacks on Israel’s major cities.
“O beloved Nasrallah hit, hit Haifa and Tel Aviv,” they chanted waving Hizbollah’s yellow flags at the march organised by the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition party in Jordan. Â
Israel began its assault after Hizbollah captured two soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border raid on July 12. It has also waged a military campaign in Gaza since June 28 to recover another soldier, seized by Palestinian militants.
At least eight people were killed by Israeli air strikes on Lebanon on Friday, taking the Lebanese death toll to 345, about 90 percent of them civilians.
CLASHES IN CAIRO
Fights broke out at the gate of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo on Friday when plainclothes security men stopped demonstrators taking to the streets with a protest against Israeli attacks on Lebanese and Palestinians.
Many thousands of people rallied inside the courtyard of the 10th century mosque after prayers, waving Lebanese and Palestinian flags and chanting in support of Hizbollah.
But when some tried to break through a cordon onto the street, plainclothes men blocked their way. Demonstrators tried to whip them with their belts and the security men attacked them with their fists, driving them back into the courtyard.
In Khartoum by contrast, former Sudanese prime minister and opposition politician Sadiq al-Mahdi led a peaceful protest of about 1,000 people after Friday prayers to show solidarity with Lebanon and the Palestinians and to condemn Israel.
Police said about 4,000 people turned out in Tripoli to support Nasrallah and to urge him to attack Tel Aviv. “O beloved Nasrallah, after Haifa, hit Tel Aviv,” they chanted at the march organised by Gaddafi Foundation, a charity group chaired by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam.
“Yes to the resistance, No to submissiveness”, chanted demonstrators while others attacked Arab governments for failing to stop Israel’s military campaigns on Lebanon and Gaza.
“Where is Arab honor? Down with reactionary and treacherous Arab regimes!” protesters repeated.
POSTERS ATTACK BUSH
In addition to anti-Israel slogans in Berlin, there were many posters attacking the United States and President Bush for supporting Israel.
“Olmert and Bush are terrorists,” shouted a demonstrator to the crowd, referring to Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The rally took place at Adenauerplatz, a square in western Berlin. Hundreds of police in riot gear cordoned off the demonstration. They frisked people who wanted to enter. There were no visible clashes between demonstrators and police.
It was not immediately clear how many people attended the rally, though a group of men handing out leaflets said they were expecting 6,000. No police estimates were immediately available.
Among the demonstrators were families, with mothers wearing head scarves and children carrying flags. One woman carried a small child clutching an Israeli flag with a red circle around the star of David and a red line through it.
Berlin has a large Muslim community. There are more than 3 million Muslims in Germany, most of them of Turkish origin.