Iranians join protests, denounce Israel


TEHRAN, Iran, AP

Chanting slogans against Israel and the United States and calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, some 10,000 people took to the streets of Tehran on Thursday to protest the death of scores of Palestinians in clashes with Israeli security forces. “The only way left for the liberation of Palestine is resistance and jihad (holy war) against the Zionist occupation,” parliament speaker Mahdi Karrubi told the demonstrators in the Iranian capital’s Palestine Square. “Experience has shown that talks and reconciliation with Israel is an exercise in futility,” said Karrubi, whose speech was interrupted by protesters’ shouts of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” and “Death to Israel.” Behind the podium from which he spoke, a large banner said: “Death to America.” The demonstrators also burned an American flag. The Tehran rally was held as protests continued elsewhere in the Middle East over the death of 65 people, most of them Palestinians, during a week of clashes. In Jordan, police used batons and tear gas to disperse some 300 high school students who staged a protest outside the Israeli Embassy. There were no reports of injuries. Three other protests by students took place in the capital Amman, while at Baqaa, the largest of Jordan’s 13 Palestinian refugee camps, shops were closed in response to a call for a general strike made by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mainstream Fatah faction. In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, thousands took to the streets. They gathered at Martyrs Square close to the presidential palace, where they burned an Israeli flag and shouted “Down, down USA” They later marched to the nearby U.N. offices, where they presented a protest note accusing the world body of turning a blind eye to “the most brutal human right violation.” In Syria, where protesters pelted the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday with stones, branches and bags of rubbish, the newspaper of the ruling Al Baath party said the actions of Israel’s security forces over the past week surpassed Nazi crimes in brutality. In Riyadh, the imam of one of the Saudi capital’s largest mosques called for jihad against Israel and its supporters. “Washington supports Israel blindly. American embassies, companies and individuals are legitimate targets and must be targeted by Muslims all over the world,” said the imam, Sheik Mansour bin Ali al-Hussein. His call for jihad coincided with a U.S. announcement on Thursday that its diplomatic missions in the Middle East would be closed to the public for several days due to mounting Arab protests. Addressing the Tehran rally, Khaled Mashaal, a senior member of the radical Palestinian group Hamas, vowed that “Jihad is the only way we can liberate our occupied Palestine.” Iran’s local Jewish leaders also joined the protesters in condemning Israeli actions. “The brutalities committed by Israeli forces have nothing to do with the divine Jewish religion. They are fascists,” said the head of Iran’s Jewish Society, Haroun Yashayaii, who was among the demonstrators. The protesters also had some words of contempt for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.”Death to compromiser Arafat” and “Palestine cannot be liberated through compromise,” they chanted.