BEIRUT — Thousands rallied across the Arab and Muslim world on Wednesday (Oct 18) to protest the deaths of hundreds of people in a strike on a Gaza hospital that they blame on Israel, despite its denials.
Condemnation was widespread across the region and angry crowds gathered after calls from Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and Palestinian factions for mass mobilisation.
“Death to America, death to Israel,” hundreds of Hezbollah supporters chanted at a rally in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
“The Israelis will try to target more hospitals, rescue workers, civil defence volunteers and Gaza’s residents without flinching, in order to push Gaza’s people out,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine told the demonstrators.
Protesters took to the streets of the West Bank city of Ramallah and Nablus, shouting “Free, free Palestine”.
Israel and Palestinian militants have traded blame for the hospital strike late on Tuesday, with the Israeli army saying later it had “evidence” that militants were responsible.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, which both established ties with Israel in the Abraham Accords of 2020, criticised Israel for being behind the strike, as it hits back at Hamas militants over a deadly attack on Oct 7.
“The United Arab Emirates strongly condemns the Israeli attack… resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of people,” the UAE’s official WAM news agency said early on Wednesday.
In Bahrain, which also normalised ties with Israel in 2020, dozens of protesters marched towards the Israeli embassy in Manama before being dispersed by police, witnesses told AFP.
Saudi Arabia, which has halted talks on potential ties with Israel since violence flared, called the blast a “heinous crime committed by the Israeli occupation forces”.
Qatar, one of Hamas’s main backers, slammed the “brutal massacre”.
Morocco, another country that recognised Israel in 2020, also blamed it for the strike, as did Egypt, which became the first Arab country to normalise relations with Israel in 1979.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi condemned in the strongest terms “the Israeli bombing” of the Ahli Arab hospital, which led to “the deaths of hundreds of innocent victims” among the Palestinian citizens in Gaza.
Turkey saw its second day of protests Wednesday with thousands gathering outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, demanding its closure.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile declared a three-day mourning period over the deadly hospital strike, saying on X, formerly Twitter, “We, Turkey, feel in our hearts the deep pain felt by our Palestinian brothers.”
In war-torn Yemen, demonstrators took part in a massive pro-Palestinian protest in the capital Sanaa, which is controlled by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.
Hundreds also took part in protests in government-held Taez and Marib.
Algeria condemned the strike as a “barbaric act” carried out by “occupation forces” while in Tunisia, thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters rallied outside the French embassy, condemning Western support for Israel.
Some waved Palestinian flags while others demanded the ambassador be expelled, accusing France of being among the Western “allies of the Zionists”, AFP journalists reported.
Libya’s Tripoli-based internationally recognised government called the hospital strike a “despicable crime” as several hundred people protested in Tripoli and other Libyan cities.
Hamas official Osama Hamdan also called for region-wide protests on Friday and Saturday, demanding the “expulsion of the ambassadors of the Zionist entity in all Arab and Islamic capitals”.
Jordan said Israel “bears responsibility for this grave incident”.
Some 10,000 Jordanians gathered outside the Israeli embassy, demanding the expulsion of Israel’s diplomatic mission.
Security forces blocked off roads leading to the embassy but the size of the demonstration swelled due to the anger in Jordan, which is home to many Palestinian refugees.
“No Zionist embassy on Jordanian land,” protesters chanted, brandishing Palestinian flags.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, also blaming Israel, called it “a war crime, a crime against humanity, and organised state terrorism”.
Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi said it was “glaring evidence of the serious violations by the Israeli occupation forces”.
Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on Tuesday for leaders to “stop this tragedy immediately”.
Iraq, which also blamed Israeli authorities, demanded an “immediate and urgent resolution” from the United Nations Security Council to stop Israel’s Gaza onslaught, as around 200 protested in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.
In the Syrian capital Damascus, hundreds of people with Palestinian flags gathered near the parliament, many wearing T-shirts bearing the image of President Bashar al-Assad.
“Martyrdom or victory,” one banner read. AFP