Reprinted fromThe Washington Post (Source: Reuters) November 11, 1997)
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov. 10--Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in support of Iraq today, waving pictures of President Saddam Hussein and burning U.S. and Israeli flags.
"Oh Saddam my dear, drop your bombs on Tel Aviv," some 200 demonstrators chanted in Ramallah as other Palestinians on the main shopping street of the West Bank city went about their business as usual. Palestinian leaders supported Iraq in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf crisis, and Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip danced on rooftops when Iraqi Scud missiles slammed into Israeli cities.
Witnesses said today's demonstrators came from all Palestinian factions in the self-ruled areas, from militant Islamic fundamentalist groups to the mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization.
"We came here in solidarity with Saddam against the American and Zionist aggression, and we are saying now to him, `We are with you all the way Saddam,' " said Isam Astal, 32, demonstrating in the Gaza Strip. He carried a sign reading "No to American terrorism against Iraq." The Palestinian Legislative Council's political committee said it "rejects American and Western threats to carry out a military aggression against Iraq." The committee called for a peaceful settlement of the U.S.-Iraqi conflict over U.N. arms inspections.
"The Palestinian people's backing for Iraq has not changed. There is a general feeling that the United States is hostile to the Arab nation and is biased toward Israel," said Azzam Ahmad, the Palestinian ambassador to Iraq and an official in Yasser Arafat's self-rule administration. The Gaza demonstrators gave a U.N. envoy there a letter addressed to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan calling for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. "We demand that you intervene in order to immediately lift the siege from our brother Iraq . . . and to stop all the measures and policies which aim to interfere in internal Iraqi affairs," the letter said.
Israel's air force chief, Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, said he was sure Iraq's latest confrontation with the United States would not prompt Baghdad to fire Scud missiles at Israel. But he said Iraq still has Scuds and launchers after nearly seven years of U.N. weapons inspections.
Iraq launched 39 missiles at Israeli cities during the Persian Gulf War while a U.S.-led coalition ousted Iraqi invasion forces from Kuwait.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Co.