- The Washington Times - Monday, January 12, 2009

KARACHI, Pakistan

Security forces used tear gas and batons to repel anti-Israel protesters who tried to attack a U.S. Consulate in Pakistan on Sunday, as tens of thousands in cities across Europe, the Middle East and Asia demonstrated against Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

A protest in the Belgian capital that drew 30,000 turned violent as well, with demonstrators overturning cars and smashing shop windows. And in Manila, policemen used shields to disperse students protesting outside the U.S. Embassy.

Israel launched its campaign in Gaza on Dec. 27 to stop rocket fire from the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Hamas began shooting rockets to retaliate for an 18-month blockade of the territory by Israel.

Gaza health officials say nearly 870 Palestinians have been killed in the latest war, roughly half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis have also died.

An estimated 2,000 protesters in the Pakistani port city of Karachi burned U.S. flags and chanted anti-Israel slogans, and several hundred of them marched on the U.S. Consulate, senior police official Ameer Sheikh said.

“They were in a mood to attack,” Mr. Sheikh said. “They were carrying bricks, stones and clubs.”

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Islamabad, Lou Fintor, said the protesters did not get close to the consulate, which was closed Sunday.

Washington provides a large amount of foreign aid to Israel as well as military and weapons assistance. Israeli military action is often perceived in the Muslim world as being financed and supported by the U.S. While Pakistan’s government is a U.S. ally, anti-American sentiment is pervasive in the Muslim-majority country.

In Spain, as many as 100,000 people attended rallies in Madrid and the southwestern city of Seville, urging Israel to “Stop the massacre in Gaza” and calling for peace initiatives. Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos will tour the Middle East starting Monday to promote solutions to the conflict.

An estimated 2,500 Lebanese and Palestinians, meanwhile, protested peacefully in downtown Beirut, waving Palestinian flags and calling on the international community to intervene in the Israeli attack.

A convoy of some 15 ambulances from an Islamic medical society sounded their sirens for 20 seconds in solidarity with Gaza medics. Leftist participants set fire to a large Israeli flag, while children taking part in the protest held bloody dolls representing Palestinian children killed in Gaza.

The death of children in the Gaza assault has become an enduring theme at protests.

Jewish communities appeared divided on the Israeli operations. In London, thousands of people gathered at Trafalgar Square to support the action in Gaza, while anti-Israeli protesters held a counterdemonstration nearby.

In Antwerp, Belgium, home to a large Hasidic Jewish community, some 800 people took part in a peaceful pro-Israel demonstration.

In a letter published in Britain’s Observer newspaper Sunday, 11 leading British Jews urged Israel to end its Gaza campaign and negotiate a settlement for security reasons.

“We are concerned that rather than bringing security to Israel, a continued military offensive could strengthen extremists, destabilize the region and exacerbate tensions inside Israel with its 1 million Arab citizens,” the letter said.

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