JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Pro-Palestinian protesters marched to the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy in Indonesia’s capital on Tuesday to demand an end to Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.
Waving Indonesian and Palestinian flags and signs that read “Free Palestine,” several hundred demonstrators gathered along a major street in Jakarta that runs outside the embassy. More than 1,000 police were deployed around the compound, which is blocked off by concrete road separators.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim majority nation, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel and there is not an Israeli Embassy in the country.
One group of protesters, organized by the United Indonesian Muslim Student Action group, chanted “God is Great” and “Freedom for Palestine” as they marched. Their banners and placards slammed the airstrikes in Gaza and denounced America’s staunch support of Israel.
Another group, organized by the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions, held a similar rally a few hundred meters (yards) from the embassy. They yelled “Save Palestinians” as they marched through downtown Jakarta to the United Nations mission.
Similar protests organized by union workers were held at the same time Tuesday in other Indonesian cities, including in Surabaya, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Makassar and Riau.
Authorities warned protests to maintain social distance during the demonstrations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Indonesia has long been a strong supporter of Palestinians and President Joko Widodo has condemned the airstrikes.
“Israel aggression must be put to a stop,” he wrote Sunday on Twitter.
In a joint statement released late Sunday, Widodo, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Brunei’s Sultan Hasanal Bolkiah called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and de-escalation of the situation.
The three leaders of Muslim-majority nations in Southeast Asia also urged the United Nations Security Council to act urgently to guarantee the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians. They also called for an emergency UN General Assembly to come up with a resolution to end “the atrocities against the Palestinian people.”
Israel has said it will press on for now with its attacks against Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, and the U.S. signaled it would not pressure the two sides for a cease-fire even as President Joe Biden said he supported one.
At least 212 Palestinians have been killed in the week of airstrikes, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.
Niniek Karmini And Fadlan Syam, The Associated Press