Hizbullah supporters protest Gaza siege

Thousands heed Nasrallah's call, swarm southern Beirut shouting "Israel is the enemy of Muslims."

hizbullah beirut protest 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
hizbullah beirut protest 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Thousands of Hizbullah supporters swarmed Beirut's southern suburbs Friday, demanding Israel lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Hizbullah supporters, including black-clad Shi'ite women with their children, waved flags and carried banners denouncing the Gaza blockade as they marched in the neighborhoods devastated by IAF airstrikes in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Chants of "Death to America" and "Israel is the enemy of Muslims" rang out from the crowd. The protests were in response to a call by Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah to people across the Arab and Muslim world to help end the siege and support the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power of it last year, ousting the forces of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The barrier was tightened last month when Gaza terrorists resumed firing rockets at Israel. Addressing the Beirut crowd, Hizbullah deputy leader Sheik Naim Kassem called on Arab and Islamic governments to act to help lift the Gaza blockade and urged Egypt to take an "historic stance" and open its border crossing with Gaza. "Silence on the (Gaza) blockade is disgraceful. Silence on the blockade amounts to participation in the (Israeli) occupation," Kassem said. In the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, about 1,000 Hizbullah supporters protested the Gaza siege with a sit-in in the city's main square, bringing traffic to a halt for about three hours. In Syria, about 3,000 Palestinian refugees also took part in a demonstration at the Sbeineh camp outside of the capital, Damascus. Hamas official Sami Abu Zouhdi, who joined the demonstration in Syria, warned that any IDF escalation in Gaza would be met with a "tough" response by Hamas. He also urged Egypt to open the Rafah crossing, saying Friday's protests were a "message of rage" against all parties contributing to the Gaza blockade, in a clear reference to Egypt.