GAZA (Reuters) â€” Thousands of Palestinians protested on Sunday after an Israeli air strike killed 57 people in a Lebanese town and Palestinian groups vowed revenge attacks on the Jewish state.
Sympathy runs strong among Palestinians for fellow Arabs in Lebanon, caught in Israel’s offensive against Hizbollah fighters.
In Gaza City, demonstrators held up posters of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his ally US President George W. Bush marked “Terrorist” and “Most Wanted”.
“We want to live in peace, we and the children of Lebanon,” they chanted outside offices of the United Nations. “With our souls and blood we will redeem you, Lebanon.” The Israeli air strike in Qana killed at least 54 people, the deadliest attack in an onslaught against Hizbollah that has largely overshadowed an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Israel said it had been unaware civilians were in the building that was flattened by the raid, and said Hizbollah was firing rockets from Qana.
The main Palestinian armed factions, some of which have been helped by Hizbollah in the past, urged their fighters to attack Israelis at home and abroad to avenge the dead of Qana.
“All options are open, including striking the depth of the Zionist entity,” said Mushir Masri, a senior lawmaker from the governing Hamas Islamist group.
He made clear that those options could include suicide bombings. The army said it had arrested two would-be bombers with their explosives belts on Sunday.
Abbas urges ceasefire
President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, urged an immediate ceasefire to stop Israel’s offensive in Lebanon. “The new Israeli crime requires an immediate ceasefire, to preserve the lives of innocent civilians,” Abbas was quoted as saying by the official WAFA news agency.
Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said neither Palestinians nor Lebanese would bow to “open war.” About 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon after fleeing or being driven from homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war at the founding of the state.
In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Palestinians burned Israeli flags. In Tulkarem, some 2,000 demonstrators marched to chants of: “Hizbollah are our heroes … Bomb Tel Aviv.” In Gaza, painters daubed murals of Israeli missiles falling on Lebanon and the Gaza Strip alike.
There were also signs of growing anger among the Arabs who make up nearly a fifth of Israel’s population, many of them living in northern areas that have come under the heaviest Hizbollah rocket fire.
“Israel is playing with fire and we are all getting burned, said Abu Mohammad, a 47-year-old shopkeeper in Haifa. “All we want is to live in peace, on both sides.” At least 542 people have been killed in the war in Lebanon since Hizbollah captured two soldiers on July 12. Fifty-one Israelis have also died.
A month-old offensive in Gaza to recover another captured soldier and end cross-border rocket fire has left 150 Palestinians dead, about half of them fighters.