Palestinians organize protests against U.S. presence in Iraq

Friday, April 9, 2004

GAZA CITY The Palestinian Authority has organized protests against the U.S. military presence in Iraq while insurgency groups have called for attacks on Americans.

Palestinian sources said PA officials organized demonstrations throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The demonstrations were approved by PA security forces and contained officials and employees.

Rallies against the U.S.-led coalition, sparked by the escalation of the insurgency in Iraq, were held in Gaza City, Ramallah and Nablus on Thursday. No violence was reported, Middle East Newsline reported.

The demonstrations comprised all of the main Palestinian insurgency groups, including the ruling Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The protests, which included a rally in front of the United Nations in Gaza City, accused the U.S.-led coalition of massacring Iraqi civilians.

At least two Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, employees of U.S. Agency for International Development who hold Israeli residency, have been abducted by Shi'ite insurgents in Iraq. The Israeli government was said to have been concerned that it will come under pressure from the international community to release Palestinian detainees.

"The state of Israel shouldn't see itself as responsible for their freedom unless they are citizens," Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuval Steinitz said on Friday.

PA media have not quoted official criticism of the United States. But Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rantisi called on the Iraqis to fight the United States the same way Palestinians have battled Israel.

At the same time, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad has urged Iraqis to escalate attacks against the U.S.-led coalition. Jihad said the Iraqi uprising could be inspired by the Palestinian insurgency war against Israel.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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