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Lebanon's capital Beirut was rocked by massive protests against Israel on Wednesday following the devastating air strike on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza that the enclave's health ministry said killed more than 500 people.
Hundreds of protesters clashed with Lebanese armed forces at the US Embassy. Tear gas was fired and The National's reporters witnessed multiple injuries on both sides.
“We just want the killing to stop,” said one protester, who gave her name only as Fatima and said she had organised one of the many busloads of demonstrators.
“The US is supporting Israel in killing hundreds, thousands of Palestinians. Just stop!” she said.
Many protesters called for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to take action.
“Oh Nasrallah, for the love of god come on,” they chanted.
Protests erupted across the region, including in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia.
Thousands of students from universities in Cairo and four other provinces took to the streets on Wednesday, waving Palestinian flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans.
In the Jordanian capital, Amman, thousands of people gathered near the Israeli embassy to denounce what they called Israel’s “massacre” in Gaza, amid a heavy security presence.
Outside the French embassy in Tunis, protesters called on officials to expel the ambassador and his US counterpart, who they accused of being complicit in the bombing and killing of Palestinians in Gaza.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” they chanted amid a heavy security presence.
In Ankara, demonstrators chanted in pro-Palestine marches from Kocatepe Mosque to Abdi Ipekci Park, with Turkey declaring three days of mourning over the deadly air strike.
Protesters waved the Palestinian flag and carried signs that read “no to genocide” during the march.
Israel has told its citizens to leave Turkey “as soon as possible” amid fears of reprisal attacks.
Several western nations issued travel alerts for Lebanon ahead of Wednesday's protests.
The warnings come as clashes between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah group intensify in the background of the broader Hamas-Israel war.
Canada on Tuesday urged its citizens to leave Lebanon while France and the US warned their citizens not to travel to the country.
“The Department of State urges US citizens not to travel to Lebanon,” said an email sent to citizens by the US Embassy.
“We recommend that US citizens in Lebanon make appropriate arrangements to leave the country … We recommend that US citizens who choose not to depart prepare contingency plans for emergency situations.”
Palestinian officials said Israel was responsible for the strike, while Israel has blamed the blast on a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which denied responsibility.
Hezbollah called Wednesday a day of rage “against the enemy and its crimes”, urging “the people of our Arab and Islamic nation to move immediately to the streets and squares to express intense anger”.
Tension between Hezbollah and Israel have heated up gradually but steadily over the past 12 days since the start of Hamas-Israel war, with daily border clashes.
At least three Israelis and around 18 people on the Lebanese side, including a Reuters journalist and two civilians, were killed in the clashes.
'I feel relief being away from Lebanon'
Dana, a 26-year-old American NGO worker who asked for her real name to be withheld, is one of many foreign residents who left Lebanon this week, anticipating further conflict.
She left Lebanon for Greece on Monday – before the US embassy had sent its advisory.
“I didn’t want the airport to close and to get stuck here once it escalated – so I left before it got really intense,” she told The National.
“I feel some relief being away from Lebanon now, but also quite a bit of guilt and uncertainty.”
While some Lebanon residents have taken precautionary measures, others have encouraged Hezbollah to express solidarity with Gaza.
“[Hamas leader] Nasrallah will take the good decision to fight these enemies,” said Hussein, a demonstrator in the southern Beirut neighbourhood of Haret Hreik. “They’re child killers. They’re inhumane. Innocent people are being killed.”
Reem, an 18-year-old student, told The National: “We want to fight and have our voices reach Gaza … Everyone can feel what the Palestinians are feeling right now.”