Muslims Demonstrate Vs. Israel, USAFSHIN VALINEJAD , Associated Press
Jan. 15, 1999 1:45 PM ET
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Several million Muslims held rallies across Iran and in Arab capitals Friday to protest Israel's continued hold on Jerusalem, the city where Muslims believe Prophet Mohammed began his journey to heaven.
The demonstrations for ``Al-Quds Day'' _ Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem _ also spilled over into anti-American protests because of U.S. support for Israel.
At the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, protesters carried a banner that read ``America is the enemy of God.'' In the Lebanese capital of Beirut, bearded guerrillas trampled on Israeli and American flags painted on a street.
By far the largest demonstrations were held in Iran, where more than three million people turned out for rallies held in conjunction with Friday prayers in the major cities. In the capital of Tehran, hundreds of thousands attended a rally, chanting anti-Israel slogans and burning Israeli flags.
A resolution was read out calling for struggle ``until the aggressor Zionist regime is annihilated.'' A banner carried a slogan by the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: ``Quds is part of Islam's body.''
In 1979, Khomeini declared the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as ``Al-Quds Day,'' a day of protest to show the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims. Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, after the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina.
``There is no country named Israel. There is Palestine, and the thieves who have occupied the houses of Palestinians should be removed from those houses,'' Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri told worshipers at Friday prayers.
In a staged protest condemning Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for making peace with Israel, a demonstrator disguised as Arafat was beaten by others in Tehran dressed as Palestinian youths.
In the Beirut suburb of Bir el-Abed, thousands of supporters of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement turned out for a rally. Other demonstrations were held in south Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley.
``On Al-Quds Day, I reaffirm to you that Israel will be eliminated one day, God willing,'' the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told the crowd.
Nasrallah, whose guerrillas attack Israeli forces almost daily in south Lebanon, also criticized Arafat.
``The fate of Jerusalem is not in the hands of Yasser Arafat,'' he said. ``Jerusalem is a divine cause that no one can renounce.''
He also scoffed at Arabs who think peace may be achieved if an opposition candidate defeats Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the May 17 elections.
``We should remind the peoples of our (Islamic) nation, and also their rulers, that those who are contesting the prime minister's post in Israel are nothing but a bunch of terrorists, criminals, killers, racists and savage people,'' Nasrallah said.
At Yarmouk, outside the Syrian capital of Damascus, hundreds of Palestinians and Iranians marched in a rally organized by radical Palestinian groups opposed to Arafat and his peace accords with Israel.
``On this day, we want to assure that Jerusalem ... will remain an Arab, Palestinian and Muslim city,'' said Ahmed Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
The protesters burned a drawing of Israel's Star of David flag. One banner waved by the crowd read: ``Shame ... they have sold Palestine for dollars.''