Gaza hospital blast sparks angry demonstrations across Middle East | Israel-Hamas war
A blast at the al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital in Gaza that has reportedly left hundreds dead has become a lightning rod for anger across the region, sparking protests across the Arab world and beyond.
Hamas has blamed the blast on an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli military has said the hospital was hit by a rocket barrage launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group. Islamic Jihad also denied responsibility.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah called for a “day of rage” to coincide with US president Joe Biden’s arrival to the region.
Following Hezbollah’s call, hundreds of demonstrators scuffled with Lebanese security forces outside the US embassy in the suburb of Awkar, outside Beirut, where protesters hurled stones and set a nearby building on fire, Agence France-Presse reported.
Police fired several rounds of teargas to disperse protesters, while medics treated people affected by the teargas. AFP reported the protesters chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel”. Hundreds also gathered at the French embassy in Beirut, raising Hezbollah flags and also hurling stones which piled up at the embassy’s main entrance.
Early on Wednesday, the US state department raised its travel alert for Lebanon to “do not travel,” while authorizing the voluntary, temporary departure of family members of US government personnel.
In Jordan’s capital, Amman, protesters attempted to storm the Israeli embassy. Police used teargas to disperse several thousand demonstrators who chanted slogans in support of Hamas and demanded the government close the embassy and scrap a peace treaty with Israel. US secretary of state Antony Blinken was staying in the city on Tuesday leading US diplomatic efforts.
In Tehran, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the British and French embassies in the early hours of Wednesday. “Death to France and England,” protesters shouted, throwing eggs at the walls of the French embassy compound in the Iranian capital.
Several thousand people also gathered in Palestine Square in central Tehran to voice their anger, according to an AFP photographer.
In Libya, hundreds of demonstrators of all ages, brandishing Palestinian flags and some covering their faces with Palestinian keffiyehs, crisscrossed the streets of Tripoli before converging on Martyrs’ Square. They chanted slogans of support for the residents of Gaza.
Television footage also showed protests in Yemen’s south-western city of Taz, as well as in the Moroccan capital Rabat and Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the blast at the hospital in Gaza was “the latest example of Israeli attacks devoid of the most basic human values”, while large crowds of protesters gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul.
Late on Tuesday, clashes with Palestinian security forces broke out in a number of cities in the West Bank, which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Palestinian security forces in Ramallah fired teargas and stun grenades to disperse protesters throwing rocks and chanting against PA president Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas was returning to the West Bank after cancelling a planned meeting in Jordan with Biden.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched in Ramallah’s central Manara Square, with some in support of Hamas’ militant leaders.
Clashes with Palestinian security forces also reportedly broke in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Tubas and Jenin, a northern city that was the focus of major Israeli military operations earlier this year.
Analysts said that the outbreak of West Bank protests highlighted long-simmering Palestinian anger against Abbas, who has long faced criticism for coordinating with Israel on security in the territory.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report