On Saturday, chanting crowds gathered in several Iraqi cities, some of them burning with Israeli and American flags, to protest the Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of demonstrators shouted anti-Israel slogans, held placards reading “Death to Israel, Death to America,” and waved Palestinian flags.
The rallies, convened by the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other paramilitary leaders, took place as Israel launched more air strikes on Gaza and Palestinian militants fired rockets at Tel Aviv and other cities in the worst escalation in the country. region since 2014.
Sadr, who has millions of supporters in Iraq and controls a large paramilitary group, has pledged to support Palestinian militias in Gaza.
Mass public gatherings in Iraq have been rare since security forces and militia groups suppressed anti-government protests last year and amid regular curfews to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The government has imposed a 10-day curfew during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha in response to rising coronavirus cases. The curfew was partially lifted the day before the anti-Israeli demonstrations.
Political leaders linked to Iranian-backed militias have joined in the call for Iraqis to take to the streets in a rare show of unity among rival Shia Muslim groups that are vying for power ahead of the October general elections.
Sadr and Iranian-backed groups view Israel and the United States as enemies and vehemently oppose the possibility of re-establishing diplomatic ties with Israel, as the two Arab states of the Persian Gulf have done.
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