Thousands Rally in Indonesia to Support Palestinians after Gaza Ceasefire Declared

Tria Dianti
Thousands Rally in Indonesia to Support Palestinians after Gaza Ceasefire Declared Demonstrators wave Palestinian flags during a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, May 21, 2021.

Southeast Asian nations welcomed a ceasefire implemented by Israel and Hamas on Friday after 11 days of fighting, even as thousands demonstrated in Indonesian cities to denounce airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi warned that violence would flare again if core issues were not resolved.

The protests came after Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, agreed to stop all fighting starting at 2 a.m. Friday. The ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and Qatar, ended a week and a half of Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rocket fire that killed more than 250 people.

In Jakarta, about 1,000 people, many waving Palestinian flags, gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy to denounce American support for Israel, which does not have an embassy here.

“We condemn the violence and expulsion of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and the closure of the al-Aqsa Mosque,” said Bachrudin, a protest leader, referring to a neighborhood in East Jerusalem where Jewish settlers sought to evict Palestinian families from their homes.

“We also condemn the crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing committed by Israel,” he said.

The latest round of fighting in Gaza was set off earlier this month after Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa mosque compound and clashed with Palestinians who were observing the holy month of Ramadan.

The 11-day conflict killed 243, including 66 children in Gaza and injured more than 1,900, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. A dozen people including a child and a teenager were killed and 357 injured in Israel, according to reports.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and is a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause. 

Retno, who expressed support for a Palestinian statehood during a special United Nations General Assembly meeting on Thursday to discuss the Middle East crisis, issued a statement after the ceasefire was announced.

“In general, all foreign ministers emphasized the importance of putting pressure so that negotiations can be carried out immediately to address the core issue, namely ending the occupation,” she told reporters in an online press conference from New York.

“If the core issue cannot be resolved, a similar situation will happen again and again,” she said.

In her speech to the General Assembly, she called for an international presence in Jerusalem to ensure the safety of the Palestinian people in the Israeli-occupied territories and to protect the status of the Temple Mount as a holy site for Muslims, Christians and Jews.
“Our ultimate responsibility is to save lives. And every minute we spend here deliberating, could mean another Palestinian life lost,” she said.

Elsewhere, foreign ministers in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines issued statements in support of the ceasefire.

In Bangkok, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai announced on Friday that he spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, who expressed condolences for the two Thai citizens killed earlier this week in a rocket attack inside Israeli territory near Gaza.

Pramudwinai said they discussed a training course hosted in Thailand that resulted in friendships between Israelis and Muslims.

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel expressed interest in the program and informed that Israel wishes to solve the conflict and not pass it onto the next generation,” Pramudwinai said in a statement.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s foreign minister, said the “ceasefire represents a crucial step forward in preventing further loss of lives and destruction, but more remains to be done.”

He noted that Kuala Lumpur stood ready to work with all relevant parties, including NGOs and civil society, to support international efforts to maintain peace.

Both Malaysia and Indonesia, earlier this week, were among Muslim-majority countries leading calls for a ceasefire in the latest round of fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“Furthermore, as the pandemic continues to be a pressing matter, Malaysia stands ready to engage and support initiatives with our partners to rebuild Gaza’s only COVID-19 testing laboratory, which has been destroyed in the Israeli attacks,” Hishammuddin said in a statement.

The Philippines, meanwhile, issued a two-sentence statement welcoming the ceasefire and thanking countries involved, including Egypt and the United States, for facilitating the agreement.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also welcomed the ceasefire.

“I commend Egypt and Qatar for the efforts carried out, in close coordination with the U.N., to help restore calm to Gaza and Israel,” he said in a statement on the U.N. website.

Indonesian protests

In Jakarta, police arrested 17 protesters including a student leader who tried to set fire to an Israeli flag, rally organizers said.

“We believe that the arrests violated the right to freedom of expression,” the protest group said.

Police, meanwhile, said the protesters were arrested for creating public disturbances.

“They refused to comply with social distancing rules,” Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus said. “They blocked the traffic and tried to set fire to tires.”

Similar protests were held in other cities, including in Solo, Samarinda and Tasikmalaya, local media reported. Elsewhere, a smaller scale anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian protest took place after Friday prayers in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.


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