Protesters in several countries demonstrate over Israeli airstrikes

AP , Friday 20 Oct 2023

Thousands of people in Muslim countries and beyond held demonstrations Friday in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, calling for an end to Israel's blockade and airstrikes in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack.

Indonesia Protests
A protester displays a defaced poster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a rally supporting the Palestinian people outside the Indonesian Foreign Ministry in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. AP


Demonstrators gathered in Iraq at the country's border crossing with Jordan; in locations across Egypt; in Turkey's capital Ankara and its most populous city of Istanbul; and in Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea.

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 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 and near the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

Nearly two weeks after the Oct. 7 attack, 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 have been 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.


Thousands of Egyptians demonstrated in cities and towns across the North African country, in an expression of solidarity with Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian government approved and even helped organize 27 locations for protesters to gather on Friday. 

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 in unison after completing 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.

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.


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.


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

Waving Palestinian flags, the protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy that 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. Those (Palestinians) are helpless because they are denied all the basic things in life to survive, and yet they (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 unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Gaza could widen into a regional and world conflict if no solution is found.

“The international community must no longer turn a blind eye to the atrocities. We must put an end to the disproportionate treatment and flagrant hypocrisy” against the Palestinians, he told the summit.


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

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 estimated that 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 demonstrators gathered along a major street in Jakarta that runs outside the embassy.

Some protesters burned portraits of U.S. 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 has long been a strong supporter of the Palestinians.

President Joko Widodo strongly condemned the Gaza City hospital blast, describing it as an attack that violated international humanitarian law.

“Now is the time for the world to stand together to build global solidarity to resolve the Palestinian issue fairly,” Widodo said in a televised statement from Saudi Arabia, where he was attending the ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council summit.

South Korea

In South Korea's capital, dozens of protesters chanted slogans, waved Palestinian flags and raised anti-Israel banners.

“Free, Free Palestinians!” the protesters shouted, while holding banners that read “We stand with Gaza” and “Stop the massacre by Israel!”

“Please care about human lives. That’s all I am thinking about,” said Elshafei Mohamed, an Egyptian student in Seoul. “If we want to really help, we need to supply Gaza with humanitarian aid at once.”

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