'Spirit of resistance': Arab support for Palestinians swells

Tuesday October 10 2023

People shout slogans and wave Syrian and Palestinian national flags during a rally in solidarity with the people of Palestine in Arnous Square in Central Damascus on October 10, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


In mosques, football stadiums and towns across the Arab world, pro-Palestinian sentiment has surged after a shock Hamas attack on Israel, sparking a groundswell of solidarity for the Palestinians.

From Ramallah to Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, people have distributed sweets, danced and chanted prayers in support of the "resistance" to Israel's long-standing occupation of Palestinian land.

"My entire life, I have seen Israel kill us, confiscate our lands and arrest our children," said Farah al-Saadi, a 52-year-old coffee vendor from Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"I was pleased by what Hamas did," said the man, whose son is in Israeli detention, adding however that he feared the scale of "Israeli crimes in Gaza" in retaliation.

Read: Israel says at 'war' after rocket barrages, militant infiltration

The multi-pronged surprise assault on Israel launched Saturday by the Palestinian militant group Hamas has killed hundreds in on both sides.


Israelis have found renewed dedication to their national cause, while Palestinians and their Arab supporters have also rallied in a rare mass show of popular unity in the region.

"I do not think there is a single Palestinian who does not support what happened," said Issam Abu Bakr, a Palestinian official in the West Bank.

The Hamas attack was a "natural reaction to the crimes committed by Israel", which has "turned its back on the political negotiation process," he added.

The Hamas assault has killed at least 900 Israelis and wounded hundreds more, while the militants have taken around 150 hostages, the Israeli government has said.

Read: Hamas threatens to kill Israeli hostages

Israeli retaliatory strikes on the Gaza Strip targets have killed 765 people and also wounded hundreds, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the blockaded enclave.

Hours after the shock operation began on Saturday, Palestinian supporters distributed sweets in south Lebanon and the capital Beirut.

Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war and Israeli troops occupied the country's south for 22 years.

Residents of the southern port city of Sidon set off fire crackers and gathered in public squares as mosques blasted chants praising "Palestinian resistance fighters who are writing the most wonderful, heroic epic".

A rally was held at the American University of Beirut, where 18-year-old Palestinian student Reem Sobh said: "We are unable to carry weapons but at least, we are able to support them."

On Instagram, Lebanese comedian Shaden Fakih explained the wave of support widely condemned in the West.

"What do you expect from Palestinians? To get killed every day and not do anything about it... to die silently?" she said in a video.

"They will carry arms and fight back. This is their right," she added, noting that she "can be against Hamas and still support any armed resistance against the oppressor, against (Israeli) apartheid".

In the Tunisian capital, schools raised Palestinian flags and a coalition of organisations and political parties have called for massive solidarity rallies.

The presidency declared its "full and unconditional support of the Palestinian people" and of their right to resist occupation.

In Damascus, the Palestinian flag lit up the city's opera house.

Syrian university employee Marah Suleiman, 42, said the Hamas attack "stirred up a feeling within us that had not been moved for many years, and revived the spirit of resistance".

Read: Iran lauds Hamas attack even as it denies involvement

"Palestinians have nothing to lose after all the killing, destruction and displacement they have been subjected to," she said.

In Egypt, which bans unauthorised protests, football fans turned matches into displays of solidarity, with pro-Palestinian chants.
In the war-scarred Iraqi capital Baghdad, Iran-backed paramilitaries trampled and torched Israeli flags during rallies in Tahrir Square.

Even Arab Gulf states joined the wave of solidarity despite the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which saw Israel normalise relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020.

The two countries released statements relatively sympathetic to Israel, but the popular mood told a different story.

Expressions of solidarity with Palestinians filled social media in the UAE, and prominent Emirati analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla condemned Israel's attacks on Gaza as a "campaign of genocide" on X, formerly Twitter.

In Bahrain, protesters have covered their faces, some with Palestinian keffiyehs, during near daily, unauthorised rallies.

"We will always support our brothers in Palestine," said a 29-year-old demonstrator, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the authorities.

"If we were able to reach them, we would have fought alongside them," he added.