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MIDDLE EAST: Gaza strikes reverberate beyond Israel

December 28, 2008 |  9:15 am

Gazasudan

Throughout the region, anger born of death germinates.

In front of the United Nations office in Tehran this morning, the women in all-covering black chadors and the young bearded men arrived.

They waved the flags of the Palestinian group Hamas, which is under an Israeli assault in the Gaza Strip, along with black banners marking the beginning of the holy month of Muharram and the martyrdom of the Imam Hussein, whose brutal death at the hands of Islam’s rulers some 1,300 years ago remains the Shiite sect's rallying cry against injustice.

Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, cast the Palestinians of Gaza in the role of Shiite Islam’s most revered figures.

“Palestinians have chosen the epochal path of Imam Hussein,” Larijani told fellow lawmakers.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared Monday a day of mourning for the nearly 300 Palestinians killed in Gaza so far and issued a decree calling on all Muslims to defend Palestinians.

"All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world's pious people are obliged to defend the defenseless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible," he was quoted as saying on state television, according to Reuters.

Television stations broadcast nonstop, instantaneous footage of blood, death and destruction, of weeping children with bandaged heads in overcrowded hospitals and bloodied corpses lying on rubble-filled streets.

All throughout the region those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause described the fighting in Gaza in the most dire terms.

"Words are not enough here to describe the magnitude of the crimes committed by Israel against peaceful Palestinians namely Gazans,” one commentator wrote on the website of the television news channel Al Jazeera.

An announcer on the Iranian-backed Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah’s Al Manar television station accused Israeli politicians of sacrificing Palestinian lives in order to benefit in hotly contested upcoming elections.

And Arabs heaped scorn on their own leaders as well as Israel.

“We have had enough with your silence,” another commentator wrote on the bulletin board of an Arab news website. “You are a bunch of agents. You think you will live forever. We warn you of a revolution that wont stop.”

Among those hoping for peace in the region, the attacks left a gloomy sense of foreboding.

The “IDF strikes will deepen the cycle of violence in the region,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, a Washington-based Jewish lobbying group supportive of peace talks, said in a statement.

“Retaliation is inevitable," the statement continued, "though we don’t know how far the violence will spread or how many more Israelis and Palestinians will die and suffer in the days and weeks to come.”

— Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran, Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo and Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: Sudanese demonstrators shout and wave a Palestinian flag during a protest in Khartoum on Dec. 28 against the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Credit: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images

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