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Across the Middle East, Mass Protests Erupt Over Israel’s Assault on Gaza

The demonstrations followed Israel’s evacuation order ahead of an expected ground invasion.

Jordanian protesters march at the downtown in front of the Husseini Mosque, raising the Jordanian and Palestinian flags, demanding an end to the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and the protection of civilians, on October 13, 2023, in Amman, Jordan.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the Middle East on Friday to protest Israel’s assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 1,500 people, displaced more than 330,000, devastated the enclave’s infrastructure, and pushed its healthcare system to the brink of collapse.

Demonstrators in Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Iran, Egypt, and Lebanon expressed outrage over Israel’s ongoing attack and the decadeslong occupation of Palestinian territory.

“This rally is aimed at condemning what is happening in occupied Palestine, the bloodletting, and the violation of rights,” Abu Kayan, an organizer of a rally in Baghdad, told Agence France-Presse.

The outlet added that “in the Saudi capital Riyadh, where protests are prohibited, an AFP journalist witnessed police cuffing a worshipper who interrupted Friday prayers by shouting at the imam: ‘Speak about Palestine! Gaza is under bombs!'”

The mass demonstrations erupted hours after Israel issued an evacuation order for northern Gaza, instructing the entire civilian population there — roughly 1.1 million people — to move to the southern half of the territory within 24 hours ahead of an expected ground invasion.

International humanitarian groups and aid organizations on the ground in Gaza condemned the order, warning that it would be impossible for so many people to move so quickly in such appalling conditions. The World Health Organization called the directive “a death sentence” for the wounded Gazans who have filled the territory’s hospitals over the past week — a period in which Israel dropped 6,000 bombs on the densely populated enclave.

“The images are already flooding in as people in Gaza begin to flee their homes in fear of what comes,” Yumna Patel, Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss, wrote Friday. “Men, women, and children, walking through the rubble of their destroyed land, holding onto whatever bags and belongings they can carry. A march to the south, not knowing if tomorrow, the south will be next. A death march.”

Al Jazeera reported that the large crowds at Friday’s protests across the Middle East “denounced Israel’s heavy bombardment of the besieged enclave,” an assault that came after a Hamas attack on Israel that killed more than 1,300 people.

“In Baghdad, large crowds filled Tahrir Square in the center of the Iraqi capital for protests called by the influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. In Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, demonstrators took to the streets waving Yemeni and Palestinian flags,” Al Jazeera reported. “After prayers in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, some worshippers stepped on U.S. and Israeli flags, in a sign of disrespect.”

A demonstrator in Jordan told Middle East Eye that “we are here to support the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

“I have seen scores of police, who have attacked us,” the protester said. “They cannot suppress our rights. We are here to defend our human rights. Jordan is beside Palestine. We are here because of our feelings for a people without weapons.”

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