Iraqis Hold Anti-Israel Protests in Solidarity with Palestinians

Chanting crowds gathered in several Iraqi cities on Saturday; some burning Israeli and American flags; in protest against the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip

Thousands of demonstrators shouted anti-Israeli slogans; held signs saying “Death to Israel; death to America” and further waved Palestinian flags. 

The rallies; called by influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and other paramilitary leaders; were as Israel launched more air strikes on Gaza and Palestinian militants fired rockets on Tel Aviv and further other cities in the worst escalation in the region since 2014. 

Sadr pledged his support to Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. 

Mass public gatherings have been rare in Iraq since security forces and militia groups crushed anti-government protests last year and amid regular curfews to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

The government had announced a 10-day curfew over the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday in response to rising coronavirus infections. The curfew lifted the day before the anti-Israel demonstrations. 

Political leaders aligned to Iran-backed militias also joined the call for Iraqis to take to the streets in a rare show of unity by rival Shiite factions which are competing for power ahead of a general election slated for October.