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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Fury engulfs Arab world
map of middle east
The language of violence has returned to the Middle East after the start of what is widely seen as "the battle for Jerusalem".

Protests have been the most persistent and widespread for many years - with demonstrations spreading to the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, which have little tradition of street demonstrations.

But as a groundswell of fury envelops the Arab world, the Egyptian Government, which has long played a key role as mediator between Israel and the Arabs, has warned against hasty calls for war.

Palestinian women in Lebanon hold up a portrait of Mohammad Al-Durra
A 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammad Al-Durra, has been named a martyr
Yemen, for one, has called for military aid to be sent to fight Israel, with the country's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, demanding the opening of Arab borders for supplies of arms and fighters to the Palestinians.

And in Iraq, President Saddam Hussein said his people were ready to "destroy Zionism" and called on Arabs to brandish their swords.

Unity

The Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, too, has spoken of military action.

He is reported to have said he was opposed to a meeting of Arab leaders unless it would lead to a declaration of war on Israel, or an economic blockade.

But, by contrast, the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, has called for rational behaviour in dealing with the crisis, and is to convene a meeting of Arab leaders on 21 and 22 October in Cairo.

It will be the first such summit since 1996 and almost all Arab states are expected to participate.

A protesters tries to storm the US embassy in Damascus
Protesters tried to storm the US embassy in Damascus
This could mean Iraq and Kuwait putting aside their differences to sit down at the table together in a rare show of unity.

Schoolchildren join protests

One Egyptian opposition newspaper is demanding the breaking of relations with Israel, while another has called for Arabs to "use the oil weapon" to free Jerusalem.

On the streets of a number of Arab nations, a torrent of discontent has been unleashed.

Over the weekend, hundreds of Egyptian demonstrators marched to the Israeli embassy in Cairo and burned Israeli flags. And students have continued their protests, following on from a 10,000-strong gathering at Cairo University last week.

Protesters on the Israeli-Lebanese border
The situation is tense on the Lebanese-Israeli border

Tension is mounting among Israel's other neighbours. On Friday, there were anti-Israel protests in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Lebanon has witnessed the worst border clashes since Israel pulled its forces out of a 15km (nine mile) deep zone in south Lebanon after 22 years of occupation. At least two Palestinians were killed and 12 injured.

And on Friday, thousands of Palestinian refugees spurred on by Friday prayers calling for a "jihad" against Israel, poured out of mosques to demonstrate on the streets.

Israeli military reinforcements have arrived on the border as negotiations continue over the release of three Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah over the weekend.

Hizbullah, which spearheaded the resistance against Israeli occupation, says it is ready for war and there are fears of a major escalation in violence.

In Syria, demonstrators have attempted to storm the US embassy, breaking windows and forcing the embassy to close.

Elsewhere in the Arab world:

  • A poll on the Internet site arabia.com - a site popular in the Gulf - found that 70% of respondents were in favour of an Arab-Israeli war.

  • During a phone-in programme on the region-wide al-Jezira satellite television channel, based in Qatar, callers berated Arab governments for failing to confront Israel. In Doha, several thousand people marched through the streets, while hundreds protested in Bahrain.

  • In Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, thousands of people burned Israeli and US flags in the northern town of Sakkaka near the Jordanian border.

  • Kuwait has rushed aid to the Palestinians in their first official contact for a decade. Relations between the two turned sour after the emirate accused the Palestinians of sympathising with Iraq's 1990 invasion.

  • In Jordan, where almost half the population which is Palestinian, demonstrators clashed with police as they tried to march on the Israeli embassy in the capital, Amman.

  • In the Moroccan capital, Rabat, hundreds of thousands of people burned Israeli and US flags on Sunday, while angry Yemeni demonstrators pelted the US embassy in Sanaa with rubbish.

    In Dubai, a Gulf Arab defence minister lamented Arab inaction against Israel. He offered a poem and a school in memory of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Durra, whose televised death shocked the world.

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See also:

08 Oct 00 | Middle East
Gaza airport closed by fresh clashes
07 Oct 00 | Americas
Clinton's day and night diplomacy
08 Oct 00 | Middle East
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07 Oct 00 | Middle East
Jewish shrine ransacked
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'Excessive' Israeli force condemned
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