Iraq's Sadr mobilizes thousands at Baghdad pro-Palestinian rally

author_image AFP
Iraqis set Israeli flags on fire during a solidarity march with the Palestinians, in the capital Baghdad on the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948, May 15, 2021. (Photo: Ahmad AL-Rubaye / AFP
Iraqis set Israeli flags on fire during a solidarity march with the Palestinians, in the capital Baghdad on the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948, May 15, 2021. (Photo: Ahmad AL-Rubaye / AFP

Thousands of supporters of firebrand Shiite Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr on Saturday rallied in the capital Baghdad to denounce deadly Israeli assaults on Palestinians in the occupied territories.

"Jerusalem is ours. Death to Israel," read signs they held up as they flooded Baghdad's iconic Tahrir Square, holding a huge Palestinian flag above their heads.

"The world is against Palestine but God backs it," read another sign carried by the protesters who also waved the Iraqi flag and held pictures of Sadr.

The rally came as Israel pounded the Gaza Strip on Saturday with airstrikes, killing 10 members of an extended family and demolishing a 13-storey building housing international media outlets.

That coincided with clashes in the occupied West Bank as Palestinians marked the Nakba, or "catastrophe," when more than 700,000 of them were expelled or fled from their land during the 1947-1948 conflict surrounding the creation of Israel.

"We stand with the Palestinian people for better or worse," Sadr said in a statement delivered by his Baghdad representative Sheikh Ibrahim al-Jabari.

"Israel is trying, by every means possible, to reconcile with Arabs and Muslims through the normalisation of ties with countries who are only guided by economic and financial interests," Sadr's message said.

He was alluding to the US-brokered normalization agreements Israel struck last year with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Experts said Saturday's rally was a show of force by Sadr supporters ahead of early parliamentary elections expected to take place in October.

The vote is a central demand of an anti-government protest movement which erupted in 2019 and involved Sadr's partisans.