GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Latest on Gaza protests and Jerusalem Day demonstrations around the Middle East (all times local):
Thousands of Iran-backed Shiite militiamen have marched through a main Baghdad street to mark “Jerusalem Day.”
The men in military uniforms carried posters of late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei before setting an Israeli flag on fire.
Jerusalem Day began after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, when the Ayatollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan a day to demonstrate the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims.
Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam after the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Iranians have begun anti-Israel “Jerusalem Day” rallies across the country to condemn Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
The rallies, including one at Tehran University, were expected to last through Friday prayer ceremonies.
Chanting “Death to Israel,” demonstrators protested Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem, the city where Muslims believe Islam’s Prophet Muhammad began his journey to heaven. Palestinians want East Jerusalem for their future capital.
Iran does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli militant groups such as Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Demonstrators also chanted anti-American slogans to condemn the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Iran has marked Al-Quds Day since the start of its 1979 Islamic revolution. Al-Quds is the historic Arabic name for Jerusalem, and Iran says the day is an occasion to express support for the Palestinians.
The Israeli military is expecting a large turnout for a protest at the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip and is warning residents to stay far away.
Over 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during near-weekly demonstrations that began March 30.
The Hamas-led demonstrations have been fueled by despair over a decade-old Israel-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the territory.
Demonstrators have also called for the “right of return” to lost ancestral homes in what is now Israel. Some two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million people are descendants of refugees who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.
Friday’s demonstrations are meant to coincide with “Jerusalem Day,” a day of protest against Israeli control of the city of Jerusalem.