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Israel-Palestine war: Solidarity protests erupt in Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque

Worshippers in Cairo take part in unplanned demonstrations after Friday prayers, chanting against the Israeli strikes on Gaza
Egyptians take part in a protest in al-Azhar mosque in Cairo on Friday 13 October 2023 (X)

Worshippers at Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo took part in protests on Friday after the noon prayers and chanted for Palestinians, according to footage shared online verified as accurate by Middle East Eye. 

The solidarity protests are in response to the largescale Israeli aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip for the seventh day in a row. So far, the shelling killed 500 Palestinian children and 276 women among a total of 1537 people recovered from the rubble of bombed civilian buildings in Gaza.

Similar protests were also held in multiple Arab countries following the Friday prayers, including in Jordan, Yemen and Qatar.

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The military campaign came in response to a surprise multi-front assault by Hamas on Israeli communities on Saturday, firing thousands of rockets and sending fighters into Israel across land, air and sea. More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed, and around 130 people taken captive back to Gaza.

The protesters are chanting for a “free Palestine,” and are echoing sentiments shared by the Al Azhar institution earlier this week, calling on Palestinians to “die on your lands as knights, heroes and martyrs, rather than leave your land for colonisers.”

The protests come after Palestinians called for a global show of support on Friday, as Israel ordered for the forced transfer of Palestinians in north Gaza to the south. 

The Israeli army said in a statement on Friday that civilians must leave Gaza City in the north, and that they would not be allowed to return "until we say so" and until "a statement is issued allowing this". 

But many are refusing to leave their homes, fearing a repeat of the Nakba in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their land, and remain refugees over seven decades later.

Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s most prestigious religious institution, declared on Wednesday that "supporting innocent Palestinian civilians through official channels is a religious, legal, moral, and humanitarian obligation, and history will not spare those who neglect it."

A statement by Al-Azhar denounced “Israeli war crimes” of killing civilians, mostly women and children, in the besieged Gaza Strip since Saturday.

Follow Middle East Eye's live coverage for the latest on the Israel-Palestine war

Egypt's Rafah corder crossing with Gaza, a key humanitarian corridor to the besieged enclave, was targeted with Israeli air strikes three times in 24 hours earlier this week as Palestinian asylum seekers were trying to flee the war. 

The crossing was the sole gateway in and out of Gaza until Monday, when it was closed indefinitely due to the Israeli bombardment.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Thursday said that people in Gaza must "stay steadfast and remain on their land," adding that his government is committed to ensuring a secure delivery of medical and humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Egypt was the first Arab country to normalise relations with Israel and has traditionally been a peace broker between Israel and Palestinian factions.

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