Tens of thousands march in Morocco for PalestiniansSun, 15 Oct 2023 17:11:53 GMT

Tens of thousands protested in Morocco Sunday in support of Palestinians amid the Gaza war, the biggest demonstration in the North African kingdom since it normalised ties with Israel in 2020.Crowds stretching for two kilometres (more than a mile) marched through the capital Rabat in the mass rally called by an alliance of Islamist parties and a left-wing coalition.”The people will liberate Palestine,” demonstrators chanted while others waved huge Palestinian flags, donned keffiyehs and voiced “unconditional support for resistance to the occupation”.”We apologise to the people of Gaza because we can’t do more than protest,” said university professor Sheherazade Bekkari, 50, who had travelled more than 200 kilometres from Fez with her children to join the protest.”Down with Zionism”, read some placards, while others declared that “Hamas is Palestine”.Israel’s new war was sparked when the Islamist group Hamas, which rules Gaza, attacked southern Israel on October 7 and killed at least 1,400 people. Israel has launched an intense reprisal, pounding the Gaza Strip with air strikes and killing more than 2,450 people.  Some protesters in Morocco stamped on Israeli and American flags, denouncing Washington’s support for Israel. Other placards denounced “terrorism regardless of its perpetrators”.The protest, which was punctuated by prayers against “tyranny and oppression”, was the largest in Morocco since it normalised relations with Israel in December 2020 in a US-sponsored deal. “The people want to abolish normalisation” some protesters chanted, as well as the slogan “against occupation, against normalisation”.Until now, Morocco’s anti-normalisation movement had been able only to mobilise, at most, a few hundred people. The treaty with Israel has been of great importance to Rabat because it came in exchange for Washington recognising Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.Morocco maintains that the territory, a former Spanish colony under its control, is an integral part of the kingdom.The Polisario Front, which campaigns for Western Sahara’s independence with the support of Algeria, demands a referendum on self-determination.Israel and Morocco have strengthened their economic and security cooperation following the deal. However, Moroccan supporters of normalisation have been embarrassed by extreme right-wing parties entering Israel’s government and surging violence in the occupied West Bank over recent months.