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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Thousands of Muslim Filipinos took to the streets in Cotabato City on Monday, October 16, to call for a halt to Israeli military offensives in Gaza in response to killings and abductions carried out by Hamas militants.
Some 12,000 people from Cotabato and the two Maguindanao provinces took part in the mass action in the regional center of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said organizers of the “Bangsamoro Rally for Free Palestine.”
During a motorcade, Palestinian flags dominated the city’s downtown streets. Women, children, and students joined in, some showing Palestine flags or stickers on their faces.
Emotions ran high, with tears shed during prayers, which were part of the rally that lasted for at least four hours
Nesreen Ebrahim, a representative of the Bangsamoro women sector, “We are here to express our sympathy and condemn the actions of the Israeli government against the innocent Palestinian children. These atrocities must cease immediately.”
Ben Hussein of the Bangsamoro Action Against Injustices (BAAI) said the rally was staged to show the Bangsamoro people’s solidarity with Palestine.
He drew attention to the thousands of children killed and the countless more injured due to ongoing bombardment and the blockade of food, water, and electricity imposed by the Israeli government in preparation for a ground offensive to eliminate Hamas militants in Gaza.
Protesters called on Arab nations to open their borders and provide aid to the displaced Palestinian residents, urging them to supply food, water, and medical assistance.
They also called for an end to Israeli military operations and asked the United States and the United Nations to maintain neutrality in the conflict.
Midpantao Midtimbang, a retired Bangsamoro politician, criticized the US for taking a stance in favor of Israel in the ongoing conflict.
He said, “As an icon of democracy, the US should maintain a neutral stance in dealing with all issues. They claim to be the champions of democracy.”
Peace advocate Khairuddin Midtimbang said, “We call on the superpowers to act responsibly in light of the ongoing human catastrophe.”
While the Philippines is predominantly Catholic, it has a sizable Muslim population primarily in the BARMM.
The Muslim-majority region has endured decades of armed separatist insurgencies until a peace agreement was signed in 2014 between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Israeli’s offensive in Gaza was a response to Hamas militants’ surprise attacks on Israel that resulted in more than 1,000 casualties and the capture of over 100 hostages. – Rappler.com