CAIRO, Egypt – Thousands across the Muslim world used Friday's Islamic day of prayer to protest Israel's attacks on Hezbollah, urging Sunni-Shiite unity to defeat the Jewish state.
Waving posters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, thousands gathered after Friday prayers at Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque, the most prominent Sunni Muslim institution in the Arab world.
"Sunnis or Shiites (there is) no difference; all together to resist the enemy," Sameh Ashour, head of the Arab Lawyers Union, told the crowd. "Resistance is the solution."
The fighting between Israel and the Shiite guerrillas in Lebanon has exposed divisions, as leaders in some predominantly Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have criticized Hezbollah's actions. But many people — both Sunnis and Shiites — support Hezbollah because of its willingness to fight Israel.
During a fiery sermon at a Damascus mosque, one of Syria's most prominent Sunni Islamic clerics assailed his Arab neighbors for condemning the capture this month of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas.
"Our Arab people have been surprised by our Arab leaders who have ignored what is being said on the streets," said Sheik Salah Keftaro.
In Iraq, radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr predicted Israel would collapse like the World Trade Center if Sunnis and Shiites join together to fight.
"I will continue defending my Shiite and Sunni brothers, and I tell them that if we unite, we will defeat Israel without the use of weapons," al-Sadr said in the southern city of Kufa.
Protesters in Cairo shouted anti-Israel slogans and condemned Arab leaders' reluctance to show their support for Hezbollah.
Thousands of police surrounded the demonstrators, beating some with batons when they tried to move into the streets. Police said three protesters were injured.
Protesters also took to the streets in other cities, including several thousand in Tripoli, Libya. About 2,000 angry demonstrators shouted praise for Hezbollah in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
"No to the Arab silence on the Zionist crimes," read one banner.
Police used batons and smoke grenades to break up hundreds of protesters who blocked traffic in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Demonstrators in Pakistan burned Israeli and U.S. flags, and protesters in Indonesia and Malaysia accused Israel of terrorism.
About 2,000 Muslims also marched in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital.