BEIRUT

Middle East

Palestinians protest anti-Islam film in Gaza, Jerusalem

Palestinian protesters during a demonstration against the controversial film "Innocence of Muslims" in Gaza, September 14, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED)

GAZA: Palestinians on Friday protested an anti-Muslim film, with thousands gathering in the Gaza Strip and hundreds in Jerusalem where they clashed with Israeli police.

In Gaza, thousands of people rallied at demonstrations in Gaza City and the southern town of Rafah, a day after the ruling Hamas party urged citizens to turn out for protests after Friday prayers.

Protesters waved the flags of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, and set fire to American flags, chanting "Death, death to America, death, death to Israel."

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, in a sermon during Friday prayers, repeated a call on Washington to apologize for the film, produced in the United States.

"The U.S. administration should apologize to the Arab and Islamic nation for this offensive film and bring these criminals to justice," he said.

Haniya said the film was the result of "a Jewish-American-Crusader alliance to ignite a war on Islam and sectarian strife, particularly in Egypt."

The amateur production called "Innocence of Muslims," which was virtually unheard of before this week, has sparked violent protests across the Middle East.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. personnel were killed during demonstrations linked to the film in the city of Benghazi, and four people were killed on Thursday when Yemeni police opened fire at a protest in Sanaa.

In Jerusalem, demonstrations were held after prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City.

The protests began peacefully with several hundred people demonstrating on the plaza that holds both the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques, chanting, "With our blood and our soul, we will sacrifice for you our Prophet."

But clashes broke out between a part of the crowd and Israeli police as the demonstration moved out of the Old City, with security forces firing tear gas and stun grenades that injured at least five people, an AFP correspondent said.

"Israel police are dispersing rioters at Damascus Gate, rocks and stones are being thrown at them," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

Police on horseback prevented demonstrators from moving away from the Old City, and four people were arrested during the clashes, said Rosenfeld.

"They intended to make their way to the U.S. consulate building and we prevented them from doing so. Protesters threw stones and bottles at officers, causing light injuries," he said.

 

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