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Anti-Israel Protests Spread in Middle East, Asia

BY Admin  April 1, 2002 at 4:30 PM EDT

In neighboring Jordan, the moderate government there faced mounting pressure to act against Israel.

“Jordan is considering taking new steps relating to the Israeli embassy in Amman, including declaring the Israeli ambassador persona non grata if the situation does not improve,” one Jordanian official told Reuters on Monday.

Despite the possible move and the presence of more than 1,000 pro-Palestinian marchers at Jordan University, sources said Jordan would stop short of severing diplomatic ties.

In Egypt, police used water cannons and tear gas to break up a protest by more than 4,000 outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

The Egyptian unrest comes on the same day a top cleric called on his nation to do everything possible to end Israel’s “brutal attack” on Palestinians.

“Every [Egyptian] official should do his utmost to stop this brutal attack, resist this ferocious enemy and push it far from the Palestinian cities,” Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the cleric responsible for issuing religious opinions, said.

Tayyeb also praised the suicide bombers that have terrorized parts of Israel.

“The suicide attacks carried out by fighters in the Israeli settlements are acts of martyrdom. They are one of the highest forms of martyrdom,” Tayyeb was quoted as saying.

Nations that have opposed all peace efforts in the region also condemned the Israeli incursion and called on other Arab nations to take action.

“Arab leaders have to take to the streets and join protesters, open the borders to people who want to fight to free al Qods [Jerusalem] and Abu Ammar [Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat] and incite people to fight,” Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told a rally of thousands in downtown Tripoli.

Iraq also urged Arab nations to use their oil to coerce international involvement in the region.

“Use oil as a weapon in the battle with the enemy [Israel],” Iraq’s ruling party said in a statement. “If the oil weapon is not used in the battle to defend our nations and safeguard our lives and dignity against American and Zionist [Israeli] aggression, it is meaningless.”

Anger and protests were not centered in the Middle East alone. In Asia, nearly 10,000 Bangladeshis staged street marches in the capital Dhaka. Some of the protestors shouted, “Death to Israel, Long live Arafat,” as they made their way through the streets.

In China, about 100 protesters congregated outside the Palestinian embassy in Beijing to condemn the latest Israeli crackdown in the West Bank and show support for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

In Europe, a rash of vandalism and firebomb attacks swept parts of France and Belgium this weekend as government officials scrambled to end the violence.

In Marseille, France, a fire completely destroyed the synagogue in the Mediterranean port city. During the Easter weekend, unknown assailants also attacked two other synagogues and a kosher butcher shop.

French President Jacque Chirac criticized the attacks, saying his government would find those responsible.

“While awaiting the conclusions of an inquiry into the fire that destroyed the Or Aviv synagogue in Marseille and all its holy books, and in the face of a multiplication of anti-Semitic assaults…, the president of the Republic reiterates his strong condemnation of these intolerable acts,” a statement said. “He has asked the government to reinforce security particularly at religious sites and to use all necessary means to find and severely punish those responsible for these crimes.”

In Belgium, a group of attackers reportedly hurled firebombs at the synagogue in Brussels. The Belgian authorities put 24-hour police protection on all Jewish religious sites throughout the capital.

“The situation in the Middle East cannot in any circumstances be a pretext for such acts of violence and intolerance against a community which has always been integrated in our country,” the Belgian government said in a statement.

The United States remained largely supportive of Israel’s actions, condemning suicide bombings. President Bush again this morning called on Chairman Arafat to stop Palestinian violence.

“There will never be peace so long as there is terror, and all of us must fight terror. I’d like to see Chairman Arafat denounce the terrorist activities that are taking place, the constant attacks,” Bush said.

U.S. representatives also appealed to Israel to use restraint in their action against Palestinians.

“We are gravely concerned at the situation in Ramallah and other areas where Israeli forces are moving. We deplore the killing and wounding of innocent Palestinians and we urge Israel to use maximum restraint to avoid harm to civilians and permit access for humanitarian services,” said State Department spokesman Philip Reeker.