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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Indonesians Hold Anti-Israel Protests

More than 100,000 people held anti-Israel protests Sunday in the Indonesian capital and several other cities, calling for protection of Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site - the disputed Al Aqsa Mosque compound.

Unfurling big banners saying, ``Save Al Aqsa from raid of the Jewish,'' about 80,000 people - mostly conservative Muslims dressed in traditional white garb - marched peacefully down Jakarta's main streets. Some marchers chanted, ``Israel is the terrorist!''

A group of extremist Jews in Israel called ``Revava'' opposes Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and has threatened to storm the Al Aqsa Mosque in July, when Israeli police and soldiers are to evacuate 9,000 settlers from Gaza. Clashes at the site could ignite violence all over the region and force Israel to halt its withdrawal.

The mosque compound is on a hilltop known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Noble Sanctuary to Muslims. The Al Aqsa Mosque compound, including the shrine marking the spot where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven, is built over the ruins of the biblical Jewish Temples.

Thousands of Indonesians protested Sunday in Semarang, Lampung, Pekanbaru, Banda Aceh and Makassar. Protesters in Banda Aceh and Makassar trampled on Israeli flags while waving the Palestinian flag.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, strongly supports the Palestinian struggle and has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Police estimated that more than 100,000 people participated in the protests, organized by the Justice and Prosperity Party, a rapidly growing Islamic-based political party seeking to establish Islamic Sharia law.

``We are ready to be martyrs to save Al Aqsa because it belongs to Muslims all over the world!'' some protesters in Jakarta chanted.

``We urge the Indonesian government to prioritize the Palestinian issue in the upcoming Asian-African summit,'' said Tifaful Sembiring, an organizer of the Jakarta protest.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP)


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