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Palestinians Protest Against Cartoons Mocking Prophet Mohammed

Muslims around the world are outraged and protesting against the publication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad, which appeared first in Danish and then other European newspapers. There have also been protests in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in Jerusalem's Old City.

Hundreds of worshippers gathered at the al Aqsa Mosque compound after Friday prayers to show their anger at what they see as an insult to their religion.

"God is great", they chanted. "We will sacrifice ourselves for Islam. We send greetings from al Aqsa to bin Laden."

The protesters waved the green flags of Hamas, and burned the flags of Denmark and Norway. The cartoons, which first appeared last September in a Danish newspaper, have since been reprinted in several European newspapers as a demonstration of the right to free speech.

One of the cartoons depicted the Muslim Prophet Mohammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.

For Muslims, it is forbidden to depict images of the prophet Mohammad, for fear it may lead to idolatry. So, the cartoons are seen as deeply offensive.

Some of the protesters at the al Aqsa Mosque shouted, as they put it, for the "crusaders" to get out. And, that says Palestinian journalist Khalil Assali, shows a deeper sense of anger at the West.

"There is a big flag [banner] saying that, using bad words against Islam is just another [more] evidence that the West is not respecting us at all," said Khalil Assali.

Tens of thousands of angry demonstrators turned out in cities and towns throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

Preachers called for punishing those responsible. "We will accept nothing less than the severing of heads, one preacher in Gaza told his worshippers. Thousands turned out in West Bank cities, including Tulkarm, Jenin and Nablus to vent their anger.

In Gaza, Mushir al-Masri, spokesman for the militant Islamic group Hamas, condemned the cartoons, but also rejected violence against foreigners or foreign institutions.

In recent days, armed militants in Gaza and the West Bank said foreigners remaining in those areas would become targets for kidnapping.

Protests against the cartoons also took place elsewhere in the Middle East and in other parts of the Muslim world, such as Indonesia.