Syria: Thousands protest against Israeli raids in Gaza

Damascus, 8 Jan. (AKI) - Hundreds of thousands of people took part in a government-sponsored protest in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Thursday to demonstrate against Israel's military attacks in the Gaza Strip. According the official news agency, Sana, the protest attracted political, religious and cultural leaders.

It was reportedly the biggest protest ever in the Syrian capital since Israel launched an air and ground offensive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip two weeks ago. The protest was called by Syria's labour unions.

Syria's official news agency SANA and the state-run Syrian Television estimated the number of protesters in downtown Damascus at around one million, but independent estimates put it at hundreds of thousands.

Demonstrators in downtown Damascus carried pictures of Syria's President, Bashar Assad, and the leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah, both of whom support Hamas.

Members of the crowd also carried several pictures of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who expelled the Israeli ambassador from Venezuela.

The crowd, waving Syrian and Palestinian flags, also yelled protests against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for refusing to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

"Oh Mubarak, listen, listen, the Arab people will not kneel down," the protesters reportedly shouted.

Before the huge demonstration dispersed, an estimated few hundred of the protesters, marched to the Egyptian Embassy.

The protesters were blocked by Syrian riot police from reaching the building. Other protesters trampled on an Israeli flag before burning it.


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