Arabs Protest Israel's Invasion

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Thousands protesting Israel’s ground offensive on Gaza converged Sunday in Beirut and Istanbul as the leaders of the only two Mideast Arab nations to sign peace treaties with Israel demanded an end to the attack.

In Yemen, security officials said anti-Israel protesters attacked several Jewish homes in the northern province of Omran, smashing windows and pelting them with rocks. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said at least one Jewish resident was injured among the tiny minority community.

Lebanese police used water hoses to try to push about 250 demonstrators away from the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon’s capital. When that failed, they fired tear gas, Lebanese security officials said. A second Beirut protest — a sit-in outside the U.N. building — drew thousands of supporters of Hamas and Lebanon’s Islamic Group.

In Turkey, more than 5,000 people held an anti-Israel rally in Istanbul, waving Palestinian flags and burning effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush. Also in Istanbul, club-wielding police broke up a small demonstration by protesters who hurled eggs at the Israeli Consulate, the private Dogan news agency reported. There were no reports of arrests or injuries.

In Morocco, tens of thousands gathered in the capital Rabat for a peaceful march to protest the Gaza offensive. Police estimated the turnout at 50,000, according to the official MAP news agency. Organizers said the number was bigger, but did not give a precise figure.

Israel’s weeklong aerial bombardment of Gaza and the start of the ground offensive Saturday against Hamas have drawn condemnation across the Muslim and Arab world and news coverage of the invasion has dominated Arab satellite television stations.

Thousands in cities from Tehran to Damascus have also taken to the streets to protest the attacks, which have killed about 500 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,600, according to Gaza officials.

In some cases, the protests of the past week were as directed against Arab governments as much as Israel, with many criticizing their perceived inaction or lack of sufficient support of the Palestinians.

On Sunday, the leaders of Egypt and Jordan — the only two Mideast Arab countries to sign a peace agreement with Israel and maintain diplomatic ties — condemned the ground offensive and called for an end to Israel’s onslaught in Gaza.

Several hundred Jordanians shouting “death to Israel” protested against the Gaza offensive Sunday in two separate demonstrations in central Amman, the Jordanian capital. The protests were peaceful and police made no arrests.

In parliament, the Jordanian government came under criticism from Islamic opposition lawmakers demanding that it suspend relations with Israel.

“All options are available to assess the relationship with every side, especially Israel,” Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi told parliament during a heated debate.

“We will reconsider relations according to our higher national interests,” he said. “We will not remain silent about the situation and the serious deterioration in Gaza and neither about the threat which risks the security of the whole area and its stability.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who runs his own Palestinian administration from the West Bank, also denounced Israel’s ground offensive as “brutal aggression” in his harshest words yet in describing Israel’s assault on his Hamas rivals.

Israel says the aim of the operation is to stop the Palestinian militant Hamas group from firing rockets at southern Israeli towns. Hamas is opposed to any peace settlement with Israel and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

“This battle will end a (peace) settlement forever,” Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told the protesters at the sit-in. “This battle will show who are the men.”

Five civilians and one policeman were lightly injured in the clash outside the U.S. Embassy earlier in the day, according to the Lebanese officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Meanwhile, the leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, discussed the situation in Gaza with visiting chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, the group’s Al-Manar TV said.

Al-Manar did not give further details but said Nasrallah and Jalili, who arrived here Saturday from neighboring Syria, discussed “ways of ending this aggression.”

Hezbollah, which is a strong ally of Hamas, possesses a formidable arsenal of rockets and missiles that bloodied Israel during a monthlong war in 2006. Hezbollah has not threatened to join Hamas in its current battle with Israel, but Nasrallah said last week that his men are on alert in case Israel attacks Lebanon.

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