Indonesia condemns Israeli
offensive


The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government and Muslim groups have condemned Israel's ongoing military operation in Gaza and demanded the release of arrested Palestinian officials.

Thousands of Muslims massed Sunday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Central Jakarta to support the Palestinian people and denounce the latest deadly offensive by Israeli troops against them.

The protesters, mobilized by the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), also shouted anti-American slogans as they accused Israeli troops of committing human rights violations.

They gathered at the capital's main Istiqlal mosque before heading to the U.S. Embassy. Many on the one-kilometer march waved the Palestinian flag and wore the party's white T-shirt with black and yellow logo, while others donned black headbands.

One banner said, ""Solidarity for the independent people of the Palestine,"" while another poster said: ""The real terrorist is Zionist Israel"". Others also accused the U.S. of terrorism and bias in favor of Tel Aviv.

On Saturday, the Indonesian government issued a statement saying the Israeli operation was unlawful and excessive.

""The use of excessive military force and the demolition of civilian installations by Israel that have caused widespread human impacts are clearly against international laws,"" the statement said.

""The Indonesian government calls for the aggression and the violence to be ended and the arrested Palestinian officials released soon.""

Indonesia also urged both sides to return to using dialog and negotiations as the way to resolving the long-standing Middle East conflict.

The PKS leader called on the United Nations and Washington to pressure Israel into ending its action.

""This is a violation of the sovereignty of the Palestinian people,"" Tifatul Sembiring was quoted as saying by AP, demanding sanctions against Israel for ""gross human right violations by the Israeli soldiers"".

Later, protesters ""stoned"" a series of wooden pillars, representing the United States and Israel, with wads of tissue paper. It was supposed to symbolize the pebble-throwing ritual, known as the stone of the devil, carried out each year by Muslim pilgrims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Picture of the United States flag and U.S. President George W. Bush were pasted on top of the replicas.

Scores of policemen stood on standby between the demonstrators and the embassy fence, while embassy security forces were also on guard behind the barrier.

Central Jakarta Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Bambang Hermanu was quoted by AFP as saying about 500 police personnel were deployed in and around the site of the protest.

After an hour of peaceful demonstration, the protesters moved their rally to the United Nations mission on a main avenue another one kilometer away, before planning to disband.

PKS is a fledgling party that has drawn enormous support among urban Muslims. It advocates clean government and respect for Islamic laws and teachings within the secular republic.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is a staunch supporter of the Palestinian struggle for nationhood and has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

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