Demonstrations against Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip have been held for the second day accross the Middle East.
On Sunday, Israel has bombed supply tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip in a second day of intense air raids aimed at forcing Hamas militants to halt rocket fire.
The operation has been a success so far, said Tzipi Livni, Israeli foreign minister, adding that the aim is to “change realities on the ground” in Gaza.
After threatening to launch a ground assault, Israel is now calling up 6 500 army reservists.
At least 280 people have died in the air raids, say Palestinians. They also say that a major tunnel bringing fuel into Gaza from Egypt was among three destroyed. But Israel says its jets bombed more than 40 tunnels.
Palestinian militants are accused by Israel of using the tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza.
While Israeli jets pounded the southern Gaza Strip hundreds of Palestinians stormed over a fence on the Gaza-Egypt border, but Egyptian security forces fired shots to prevent them entering.
In the turmoil that followed an Egyptian security official was shot dead and another wounded.
On Sunday, one protester was killed and at least two others critically injured by Israeli fire at a protest near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in and around a stadium in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, chanting anti-Israeli slogans and criticising Arab leaders for failing to act.
“How long will the silence last? Arabs wake up!” read one banner.
The ruling party backed the demonstration, as well as opposition groups and other organisations.
Under the Jordanian parliament dome, a few members of parliament burned the Israeli flad while in session on Sunday, after calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Amman.
In Lebanon, hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian refugees staged a sit-in near the United Nations office in central Beirut. They held banners calling on the global body to put pressure on Israel in order to end the attacks.
The Lebanese-branch of the Muslim Gamaa group organised the protest, along with Hamas and other groups. More than 400 000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, in 12 camps accross the country.
Reporting from Beirut, Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin said that people were demanding more decisive action from their leaders.
“From the people we have heard very critical remarks, not only against Israel, but also against Arab governments. Many were angry at the Egyptian government, they feel they needed to do more”, she said.
The attacks have been condemned as a “war crime and a genocide that requires immediate action from the international community and its institutions” by the Hezbollah movement, which fought a 33-day war with Israel in 2006.
In a statement, the group called on Arab countries to “take a firm stand and exert its utmost efforts against the Israeli barbarism – which is covered by the US – and the international community to stop this ongoing massacre”.
Until the summit in Doha, Qatar, on January 2, the Arab League will not meet to discuss a common response to the Israeli assault.
Though Arab foreign ministers were due to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday, it was postponed until Wednesday.
The delay was because many ministers were busy in separate meetings of two Arab regional groups – the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and the Maghreb Union, said Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general.
“The time worries us very much because of the delay in holding the ministerial meeting but we will not remain silent and consultations are continuing”, he said.
However, the attack will be discussed by the GCC, which described the situation as “barbaric” and “ugly” on Saturday.
‘Aggression and rape’
At the same time, an estimated 5 000 people congregated in the Yusif al-Azmeh square in Damascus, the capital of Syria, shouting slogans and cluttering the horizon with the flags of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PLFP, Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine.
Many were bussed in for the demonstration, which suggests that it was government orchestrated, even though some protesters insisted that their attendance was not obligatory.
One lorry slowly circled the square, covered in Hamas banners and carrying masked men dressed in white with fake suicide belts. From loudspeakers, Hamas supporters called for “jihad” against Israel and led their followers in fist-pumping chants calling for “struggle in the name of God”.
Israeli flags were burnt in other parts of the square. Other protesters praised Bashar al-Asad, the Syrian president, while calling on Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to take a stand against Israel.
“I came here to stand alongside my brothers in Gaza and to stand against the Israeli aggression and rape of Gaza. Israel doesn’t want peace”, said Ismael Balaan, a 45-year-old telecommunications worker.
Close by, followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi populist leader opposed to the US presence in his country, dressed in the black uniform of al-Sadr’s militia, danced while chanting against the US and Israel.
“We are protesting for the oppressed people in Gaza and against the Israeli bombing that has killed women and children”, said Akram al-Musawi, a black-turbaned Sadrist. “We will resist all oppressors and anyone that kills women and children whether it’s in Iraq, Lebanon, or Palestine.”
On the other hand, an Iraqi born Palestinian, who asked not to be named, was critical of the demonstration, which he believed to be government orchestrated.
“If the Syrian government really cares about Palestine why don’t they let in the Palestinians stuck in the al-Tanf refugee camp on the border?” he said, referring to the Iraqi-Palestinians living in the no-mans-land between Iraq and Syria
‘Gaza will remain’
Other demonstrations also took place across Iraq.
In Baghdad’s eastern Baladiyad neighbourhood, Dozens of Palestinian refugees gathered, chanting anti-Israeli slogans and waving messages of support for Gaza.
“I’d like to say to my relatives and to my people in Gaza that Gaza will remain steadfast in the face of Americans and Zionists whatever the plots and conspiracies hatched by tyrants and arrogant enemies”, said Dalil al-Qasoos, the Palestinian ambassador to Iraq.
A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of demonstrators in Mosul, killing at least four people and injuring 20 others, police said.