Thousands rallied in one of Egypt's main mosques Friday protesting Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, many calling on Arab governments to take action to protect the Palestinians.
Hundreds of security forces in riot gear lined up alongside Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque during the protest following weekly prayers. But there was no move to crack down on the demonstration, and police commanders said they wanted to avoid a confrontation, even though the protest was organized by one of the government's top rivals, the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Rulers of Arab countries, start jihad (holy war). Allah Akbar (God is great)," shouted a group of men in the mosque, while nearby several dozen women worshippers chanted, "Keep our country free and tell the (Israeli) ambassador to leave. We will not be afraid, we will not back down, we will not be silent."
Several small demonstrations were held in other parts of the Arab world. But the weekly Friday prayers at mosques - a frequent launching ground for political protests - did not see a massive outpouring of anger over the Israeli assault in Gaza, sparked by the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked militants.
Governments, particularly Egypt's, appeared eager not to enflame sentiments.
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