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Arab Summit Protesters Want Action

October 21, 2000

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Around the Arab world, angry demonstrators demanded on Saturday that Arab leaders meeting in Cairo provide more than platitudes to support Palestinians rising up against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Protesters in Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon shouted anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans. Many Palestinian refugees also condemned moderate Arab leaders who have said they will not cut ties with Israel or declare a holy war against the Jewish state.

In Cairo, Libyan delegates walked out of Saturday’s summit meeting of Arab leaders, saying they wanted stronger action against Israel.

In Yemen, government offices, schools and universities closed early to let people participate in a five-hour demonstration that drew up to a million people and paralyzed traffic in the capital, San`a. Tribesmen from outside San`a traveled to the city to participate, burning Israeli flags and chanting ``No America after today!″

Demonstrators referred to a 12-year-old Palestinian boy whose shooting death early on became a rallying point: ``No peace, no normalization of ties! The blood of Mohammed Aldura will not be in vain!″ they shouted. On placards, they called for liberating Jerusalem through holy war and insisted, ``this summit will not bring peace, only submission.″

Arab leaders participating in the Cairo summit were trying to balance their citizens’ rage and calls for retribution against Israel with desires to salvage a peace process some of them have helped push forward for years.

Summit speeches were broadcast live throughout the Arab world. Some who watched _ including Fayrouz Mohamed al-Sayed, a university student who helps out at her father’s grocery store in Cairo _ said they doubted the meetings would solve anything.

``While these meetings are going on,″ she said, pointing to a small TV behind the counter replaying a summit speech by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, ``Palestinians are being murdered and persecuted. How come Israel doesn’t need any meeting or reminder of what its goals are and we do?

``The Libyans were right to leave _ a statement or a condemnation is not going to change anything. I know a war would be hard to win, but if we are going to die then we should die with pride.″

Mahmoud Najeh, a waiter in Amman, Jordan, said Arab leaders at least should heed their people’s call for a boycott of Israel. ``But will they do it?″ he asked.

Ali Abu-Hayja, a Jordanian vegetable vendor, didn’t think so. ``The Arab summits are just talk shops,″ said Abu-Hayja, 64. ``Since I was a child, I have watched Arab leaders talking nicely in these meetings, but doing nothing afterward.″

A banner at an Amman sit-in by more than 500 Muslim fundamentalists and leftists was more blunt: ``May God save us from these Arab summits.″

Tens of thousands of Palestinians turned funeral marches into demonstrations in the West Bank, urging Arab leaders to ``pay attention, the Palestinians are getting killed.″

At a Hebron funeral, marchers burned photos of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd _ a rare display of hostility toward moderate Arab leaders.

At Ein el-Hilweh, the largest of Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps, 3,500 Palestinians from various factions burned effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as well as Israeli and American flags. Shops and schools closed in Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Syria, where thousands called for action against Israel in a march organized by eight Damascus-based radical Palestinian groups.

In Egypt, thousands of students demonstrated on university campuses in Cairo and outside the capital, urging Arab leaders to cut all ties with Israel, boycott Israeli and American products, end normalization with the Jewish state and expel Israeli ambassadors.

``Rulers of countries, open the door for holy war,″ they chanted.

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