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Tuesday June 18, 2024

Israel-Hamas conflict: Arab world's heart goes out to war-devastated Palestinians

From Ramallah to Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, people have distributed sweets, danced and chanted prayers in support of the Palestinian "resistance"

By Web Desk
October 10, 2023
People take part in a Stand with Palestine demonstration, close to the Israeli embassy, in West London, on October 9, 2023. — AFP
People take part in a 'Stand with Palestine' demonstration, close to the Israeli embassy, in West London, on October 9, 2023. — AFP 

After a shocking Hamas attack on Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiment has increased in mosques, football stadiums, and villages across the Arab world, igniting a groundswell of support for the Palestinians.

From Ramallah to Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, people have distributed sweets, danced and chanted prayers in support of the "resistance" to Israel´s long-standing occupation of Palestinian land.

"My entire life, I have seen Israel kill us, confiscate our lands and arrest our children," said Farah al-Saadi, a 52-year-old coffee vendor from Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"I was pleased by what Hamas did," said the man, whose son is in Israeli detention, adding however that he feared the scale of "Israeli crimes in Gaza" in retaliation.

The multi-pronged surprise assault on Israel launched Saturday by the Palestinian militant group Hamas has killed hundreds on both sides.

Israelis have found renewed dedication to their national cause, while Palestinians and their Arab supporters have also rallied in a rare mass show of popular unity in the region.

"I do not think there is a single Palestinian who does not support what happened," said Issam Abu Bakr, a Palestinian official in the West Bank.

The Hamas attack was a "natural reaction to the crimes committed by Israel", which has "turned its back on the political negotiation process," he added.

'Die silently'

The Hamas assault has killed at least 900 Israelis and wounded hundreds more, while the fighters have taken around 150 hostages, the Israeli government has said.

Israeli retaliatory strikes on the Gaza Strip targets have killed 765 people and also wounded hundreds, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the blockaded enclave.

Hours after the shock operation began on Saturday, Palestinian supporters distributed sweets in south Lebanon and the capital Beirut.

Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war and Israeli troops occupied the country´s south for 22 years.

Residents of the southern port city of Sidon set off firecrackers and gathered in public squares as mosques blasted chants praising "Palestinian resistance fighters who are writing the most wonderful, heroic epic".

A rally was held at the American University of Beirut, where 18-year-old Palestinian student Reem Sobh said, "We are unable to carry weapons but at least, we are able to support them."

On Instagram, Lebanese comedian Shaden Fakih explained the wave of support widely condemned in the West.

"What do you expect from Palestinians? To get killed every day and not do anything about it... to die silently?" she said in a video.

"They will carry arms and fight back. This is their right," she added, noting that she "can be against Hamas and still support any armed resistance against the oppressor, against (Israeli) apartheid".

In the Tunisian capital, schools raised Palestinian flags and a coalition of organisations and political parties have called for massive solidarity rallies.

The presidency declared its "full and unconditional support of the Palestinian people" and of their right to resist occupation.

'Nothing to lose'

In Damascus, the Palestinian flag lit up the city´s opera house.

Syrian university employee Marah Suleiman, 42, said the Hamas attack "stirred up a feeling within us that had not been moved for many years, and revived the spirit of resistance".

Palestinians "have nothing to lose after all the killing, destruction and displacement they have been subjected to," she said.

In Egypt, which bans unauthorised protests, football fans turned matches into displays of solidarity, with pro-Palestinian chants.

In the war-scarred Iraqi capital Baghdad, Iran-backed paramilitaries trampled and torched Israeli flags during rallies in Tahrir Square.

Even Arab Gulf states joined the wave of solidarity despite the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which saw Israel normalise relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020.

The two countries released statements relatively sympathetic to Israel, but the popular mood told a different story.

Expressions of solidarity with Palestinians filled social media in the UAE, and prominent Emirati analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla condemned Israel´s attacks on Gaza as a "campaign of genocide" on X, formerly Twitter.

In Bahrain, protesters have covered their faces, some with Palestinian keffiyehs.

"We will always support our brothers in Palestine," said a 29-year-old demonstrator, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the authorities.

"If we were able to reach them, we would have fought alongside them," he added.