Angry protesters around the Muslim world followed Hamas's call for a "day of wrath". This follows seven days of Israeli air raids that have killed more than 400 people.
All across the world, tens of thousands of Muslims answered calls to march in solidarity with their Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip following Friday prayers.
Thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank after Hamas called for protests on Friday in a national "day of wrath”.
Following Hamas's calls, Israeli authorities restricted access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem to men over 50. Palestinians hurled rocks at police in several neighbourhoods after about 3,000 people attended prayers there.
In Iran, several thousand worshippers marched through central Tehran to protest against the Israeli blitz, chanting "Death to Israel," "Death to America."
"We are calling for an immediate ceasefire, a halt to the attacks and aid for the population of Gaza as well as an end to the [Israeli] blockade of the Palestinian territory and the opening up of all the borders, particularly the ports," said Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, in a sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers.
There were similar scenes in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Kenya and Turkey all through the day.
|Thousands of Muslims around the world reponded to Hamas' call for a "Day of Wrath"|
In Amman, Jordan, police fired teargas to prevent 2,500 angry protesters chanting “no Zionist embassy on Arab territory” from approaching the Israeli embassy.
In the Egyptian capital of Cairo, hundreds of riot police have been deployed at key mosques. Egyptian police arrested at least 40 members of the Muslim Brothers group ahead of the opposition group’s call for mass protests.
"Let Friday be a day of solidarity"
Friday's demonstrations came a day after an Israeli air strike in Gaza killed senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan. Rayyan is the most senior Hamas official to be killed in the current Israeli offensive, a loss that led the Islamist group to issue a call for mass demonstrations Friday.
|Nizar Rayyan, senior Hamas leader killed in the offensive Thursday|
“Let Friday be a day of solidarity with our people in Gaza and a day of wrath against the Zionist occupation and its settlers,” wrote Hamas on its Web site. The Islamist group took control of Gaza in 2007 after ousting forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party.
In Lebanon, thousands of protesters joined rallies all over the country to condemn what demonstrators called Egypt's complicity in the attacks. "Arab leaders, enough silence, the people of Gaza are dying!" the crowd yelled in Beirut.
“The Arab world is currently not at its best,” Nassif Hitti, the Arab League’s ambassador to Paris, told France 24’s François Picard.
Seventh day of the bombing campaign
The demonstrations came as Israel pressed on with its aerial offensive on the Gaza Strip. On the seventh day of a bombing campaign aimed at stopping Hamas rocket attacks, an Israeli air strike near the town of Khan Yunis killed three Palestinian children aged between 8 and 12 years, according to Palestinian medics.
|The Israeli air offensive on the Gaza Strip is on its seventh day|
The strikes followed another night of Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip. More than 400 people have been killed and over 2,100 wounded since the Israeli onslaught began on Saturday, according to Palestinian medical sources. The UN says at least 25% of them are civilians.
Four Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets fired into Israel since the campaign began on Saturday.
With a ground offensive widely expected and no ceasefire in sight, the Israeli army opened a border crossing to let an estimated 400 foreigners in Gaza leave the battered enclave.
But reporters did not go into Gaza despite a Supreme Court ruling that eight foreign media representatives should be allowed into the territory after the foreign press group objected to the government demand to choose two of the journalists.
|Map of Israeli offensive in Gaza, Picture AFP|
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Date created : 2009-01-03