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Palestinians rally in support of Iraq

Palestinian Authority not playing major role in demonstration

From Kelly Wallace

Palestinians march Friday in Gaza City, in a demonstration of support for the Saddam Hussein regime.
Palestinians march Friday in Gaza City, in a demonstration of support for the Saddam Hussein regime.

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Several thousand Palestinians -- waving flags and carrying placards -- demonstrated Friday in support of Iraq, part of a week long series of rallies planned to show solidarity with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

A number of radical Palestinian groups -- including Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- took part in the demonstration.

President Bush has threatened possible military action against Iraq if it refuses to abide by U.N. resolutions calling for it to disarm. Baghdad repeatedly has denied possessing weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, nuclear or biological ones.

The Palestinian Authority, which has said Saddam should comply with U.N. resolutions, did not play a major role in Friday's demonstration, but some members of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah Youth Movement participated.

Demonstrators, many with their faces covered, marched through Gaza City carrying displays reading, "No, no to attack" and "Salute to Iraq."

Other placards read, "Where is Arafat? He's sold us to the U.S." and "Bush -- he's like a cancer."

Demonstrators said the rally was intended to show solidarity with Iraq, which has provided financial support to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Hamas leader Abdelaziz Rantissi said he stands by remarks from a rally last week in which he said that Iraq should train and use suicide bombers against Western troops if its country is attacked.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for large-scale suicide bombings and other attacks against Israeli civilians and the Israeli military.

Friday's rally, on the Muslim day of prayer, followed one Thursday by about 1,000 Palestinians.

Demonstrators at that rally chanted, "Saddam, Saddam our response will come in Tel Aviv."

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