Sharon denounced in worldwide protests

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched in Western and Middle Eastern cities over the weekend to protest against Israel's continuing bombardment of the West Bank.

In Brussels, stones were thrown at the US embassy as pro-Palestinian protesters shouting "Sharon, Bush, murderers" burnt the Stars and Stripes. About 10,000 otherwise peaceful protesters marched to the European Union institutions' quarter, waving Palestinian flags and banners reading "Stop the massacre", and demanding that the EU do more to force Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories.

In New York on Saturday, hundreds of people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall carrying signs that read "Sharon = Hitler". Similar protests were held in Florida, Ohio, New Jersey and California. Mahmoud Eltalla, 42, a petrol station owner who was born in Gaza, said in a protest in Miami Beach: "They're killing children, women, they're killing everybody. What the Nazis did to them, they're doing to us right now."

In New York, there was a counter-demonstration, with thousands of people staging a rally in support of Israel. One sign read "Arafat = Osama = Terror", equating the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat with Osama bin Laden, the fugitive leader of the al-Qa'ida network.

There were also pro-Israeli demonstrations in France yesterday, with marchers taking to the streets in Paris, Marseilles, Lyons, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Toulouse to express solidarity with Israel and to protest against a recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks.

On Saturday, more than 20,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched to the Place de la Bastille in Paris, some carrying shredded American flags and shouting "Sharon assassin".

A similar number of protesters marched through Rome to a rally in Piazza del Popolo, where the crowd swelled to about 50,000 people.

A protest in Berne, Switzerland, drew about 9,000 people. In Sydney, Australia, some 5,000 activists marched, shouting "Free Palestine" and waving flags and placards outside the Israeli and US consulates.

At least a million people marched in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, many brandishing caricatures of Ariel Sharon, wearing a swastika. Up to 5,000 marched in Jakarta, the capital of the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia.

Thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians chanted slogans in Beirut, accusing Egypt and Jordan of treason for maintaining diplomatic ties with Israel.

In Bahrain, thousands of protesters joined the funeral procession of a man aged 24 who died yesterday after being hit by a rubber bullet at a protest outside the American embassy last week. In Jordan, a Palestinian boy aged 11 died in hospital of a head injury suffered when protesters clashed with riot police on Friday.

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