Gaza blast stirs protests across Middle East and in Washington

(Reuters) -Protesters staged anti-Israel rallies around the Middle East on Wednesday, some of them turning violent, to voice rage at an explosion that killed hundreds of Palestinians at a hospital in the deadliest incident inside Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian teenagers near Ramallah in the West Bank during protests against Tuesday’s blast at Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital in Gaza City, Palestinian officials said.

The two sides have blamed each other for the explosion.

In Lebanon, security forces fired tear gas and water canon at protesters who were throwing projectiles as a protest near the U.S. Embassy north of Beirut turned violent, footage by Lebanese broadcaster al-Jadeed showed.

“America is the devil, the real devil, because it supported Israel, and then all the world is blind. You don’t see what happened yesterday?” said Lebanese demonstrator Mohammed Taher.

State-sponsored marches were held across Iran, backer of Hamas and Israel’s sworn foe, with demonstrators carrying banners that read “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

“Every drop of blood of Palestinians killed in this war, brings the Zionist regime (Israel) closer to its downfall,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said in a televised speech.

Demonstrations were not confined to the Muslim world or the Middle East. Hundreds of Jewish peace activists rallied in Washington calling on the Biden administration and Congress to press for a ceasefire.

Some 200 demonstrators, many from the group Jewish Voice for Peace, filled the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building near the U.S. Capitol, chanting, “The world is watching.” They wore black T-shirts emblazoned with the messages, “Jews Say Cease Fire Now” and “Not in Our Name.”

The U.S. Capitol Police said its officers began arresting protesters who refused to comply with orders to disperse. Some 500 other protesters blocked off Independence Avenue outside.

Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli air strike for Tuesday’s explosion in northern Gaza. Israel said the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, which denied blame.

The latest bloodshed enraged a region in crisis since Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, carried out a cross-border rampage against communities in southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,400 people were killed and hostages were taken.

More than 3,000 Palestinians have been killed in retaliatory bombing of the crowded coastal enclave by Israel, Gaza health authorities say.

In Iraq, about 300 supporters of Iran-backed Shi’ite militia groups protested near a bridge which leads to the fortified Green Zone, home to the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions.

“Americans must know that their support to the terrorist Israel will bring them defeat and devastation,” militia member Said Ali Akbar said, waving a Palestinian flag.

In Amman, riot police pushed back thousands of Jordanian protesters planning to march on the heavily fortified Israeli Embassy. Several police were injured in clashes with protesters who torched property near the embassy, police said.

“No Zionist embassy on Arab land,” demonstrators chanted in the Jordanian capital after noon prayers.

In Tunis, protesters burned Israeli and American flags and demanded the expulsion of the U.S. and French ambassadors for what they termed their unconditional support for Israel.

“They (Palestinians) have no food or water, and they are getting bombed. This is genocide, not war. This is a crime. We must find a solution,” demonstrator Ines Laswed said.


The protesters shouted slogans backing Hamas, including “Revenge … revenge … Oh Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv.”

In Yemen, thousands marched in the capital Sanaa. Mohammed Ali Al-Rammah of the ruling Houthi movement denounced what he called Israeli lies and hatred.

“We will fight you,” he said.

In Beirut’s Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs, thousands of people gathered for a protest, waving Hezbollah, Palestinian and Lebanese flags and chanting, “Death to America”.

Senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine told the rally the group was “thousands of times stronger” than before and the U.S., Israel and “malicious Europeans” should be careful.

Saudi Arabia urged its nationals to leave Lebanon citing “current events” in the south of Lebanon, where Hezbollah has been exchanging fire at the border with Israeli forces.

France’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was advising its citizens against any travel to Lebanon given the security situation, especially at Lebanon’s border with Israel.

Security concerns have risen across much of Europe linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict and to attacks by other Islamist groups such as Islamic State (IS). France says 24 of its citizens were among the 1,400 people killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Italy has stepped up surveillance, especially in crowded areas, and increased protection for sites that might be targets for attacks, Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara in Tunis, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Tom Perry in Beirut and Benoit Van Overstraeten in Paris; additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Moira Warburton in Washington; editing by William Maclean, Mark Heinrich, Angus MacSwan and Howard Goller)