Iraqi militias protest at Jordan border over Israeli attacks on Gaza

Death toll from Israeli bombardment in Gaza Strip rises to more than 4,000

Protesters take part in anti-Israeli demonstration in Baghdad

Protesters take part in anti-Israeli demonstration in Baghdad
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Hundreds of members of Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups gathered at the border with Jordan on Friday to protest against Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip as hundreds of civilians demonstrated in Baghdad.

Most of the fighters at the Treibel border crossing were from Kataib Hezbollah, one of most powerful of the Iran-backed Shiite militias that dominate Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces.

“No, no Israel. No, no for normalisation,” they shouted, waving Iraqi and Palestinian flags.

The protests came as the death toll from Israel's bombardment of Gaza exceeded 4,000, with more than 13,000 injured, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The raids began after a surprise attack by Gaza-based militants on October 7 that left more than 1,400 dead in Israel, most of them civilians.

Israel has threatened to wipe out Hamas – the group that rules Gaza and whose fighters carried out the attack – but most of those killed in its attacks have been civilians, including more than 1,500 children, sparkling public anger across the region.

Firefighters used hoses to prepare the ground for the militia members to set up tents to stage a sit-in at the crossing, which is in Iraq's western desert.

Riot police have been sent to the area.

“We are going to support our people in Palestine,” said Hussein Samir, 26, as he sat in a bus before leaving Baghdad late on Thursday.

“We condemn them and we will give them a period of time – if they don’t lift the blockade, the resistance will begin, God willing, and the war against them [Israel] will begin."

More militias and supporters of the Iran-backed Co-ordination Framework, the largest bloc in parliament, gathered on Friday afternoon outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, home to key government offices and foreign embassies.

The bloc's rival, Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, called for peaceful sit-in protests at the borders with Palestine in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

"Stay until the blockade is lifted and aid is delivered to people in Gaza," Mr Al Sadr said in a recorded televised speech.

He said protesters should be unarmed.

At the Abu Hanifa Mosque in Baghdad’s northern district of Al Adhamiyah on Friday, worshippers chanted in solidarity with the Palestinians.

“Here we are, O Al Aqsa,” they shouted during the Friday sermon, referring to third-holiest site in Islam, in Israel-annexed East Jerusalem, often a flashpoint in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Our hearts are bleeding as we are seeing what the Zionist entity killing machine is doing in Gaza,” Osam Ahmed Ali, 53, told The National.

“Unfortunately we can’t do anything else other than pray for them and show our support and sympathy from here."

More Iraqis took to the streets across the country to condemn Israel's actions and US support for the war.

Last week, Iran-backed Iraqi militias warned the US against intervening to support Israel against Hamas. Iraqi military bases hosting American troops have been targeted with explosive-laden drones and rockets in at least four attacks this week.

“Our missiles, drones and special forces are ready to direct qualitative strikes at the American enemy in its bases and disrupt its interests if it intervenes in this battle,” Kataib Hezbollah leader Ahmad “Abu Hussein” Al Hamidawi said last week.

Updated: October 20, 2023, 3:52 PM