News ID: 265820
Published: 0218 GMT February 18, 2020

Palestinians channel protests through dawn prayers

Palestinians channel protests through dawn prayers
RANEEN SAWAFTA/REUTERS
Palestinians attend the fajr (dawn) prayer at Al-Nasr Mosque in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on February 14, 2020.

Before sunrise, thousands of Palestinians streamed toward the mosque in Nablus’s Victory Square, swelling the usual crowds of morning worshippers to launch a new front in their protests against Israel and the United States.

The scene was repeated elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, where people had begun turning out for early prayers in unprecedented numbers, forsaking the usual protest sites where they risk arrest and channeling their anger into a mass expressions of faith, Reuters reported.

“This is the most peaceful way to get the message out,” said restaurant owner Saif Abu Baker, as the Nablus crowds spilled out of the mosque into surrounding alleyways and courtyards.

Political slogans including “For the sake of God, we have risen up” echoed through Nablus’s Old City after the calls from the muezzin and the recitations of the faithful.

“I would hope that it is a new form of channeling the way the message is being sent out there,” said Abu Baker. “Because we have tried protesting and it did not work because we don’t have enough power. It’s the safer way for everyone.”

Much of the crowd’s message at Friday’s fajr (dawn) prayers – the day when most people turn out – was a rejection of the perceived pro-Israel bias of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan.

Many have begun heeding calls on Facebook and other social media sites to attend what is becoming known as the ‘Great Fajr Campaign’ – described as a show of solidarity against Trump and what they see as Israeli threats to Islamic holy sites in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Al-Khalil (Hebron). Those two cities have also seen larger turnouts in the past few weeks.

The first calls for a surge in attendance were from Fatah, Abbas’s nationalist political faction that dominates the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Numbers grew after the campaign gained support from the Hamas group, which holds sway in mosques, especially in cities where it has a sizeable following.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, in Gaza, told Reuters the campaign was a bid to alert Palestinians to the Trump plan, and to Israel’s plans to annex its West Bank settlements.

In Nablus – where crowds surged to several thousand on Friday, from around 2,000 the week before – worshippers insisted there was no single group behind the drive, describing it as a grassroots movement still finding its feet.

But the streets echoed with chants popular at Hamas rallies, including: “A nation with the leadership of Muhammad (PBUH) will not be defeated”.

The event appeared to be organized – extra prayer carpets were rolled out, food and water were available in abundance and the gathering was supervised by stewards wearing fluorescent jackets proclaiming them ‘Knights of the Dawn,’ and bearing the stenciled image of the nearby Al-Nasr (Victory) Mosque.

Trump’s so-called “deal of the century”, proposed on January 28, heavily favored Israel, granting the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of Al Quds (Jerusalem), which Palestinians regard as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The Palestinian Authority and all Palestinian factions have categorically rejected the plan for being completely biased in favor of Israel. The Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have also rejected the plan.

 

   
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