Thousands of Palestinians have forsaken usual protest sites to gather at the mosque in Nablus’s Victory Square, for morning prayers to launch a new front in their protests against Israel and the United States.
After years of protest, and war, the people of Palestine have begun turning out for early prayers in unprecedented numbers, channeling their anger into a mass expression of faith.
The event appeared to be organized – extra prayer carpets were rolled out, food and water were available in abundance and the gathering was supervised by stewards wearing fluorescent jackets proclaiming them ‘Knights of the Dawn,’ and bearing the stenciled image of the nearby al-Nasr (Victory) mosque.
“This is the most peaceful way to get the message out,” said restaurant owner Saif Abu Baker, as the Nablus crowds spilled out of the mosque into surrounding alleyways and courtyards.
“I would hope that it is a new form of channeling the way the message is being sent out there,” said Abu Baker. “Because we have tried protesting and it did not work because we don’t have enough power. It’s a safer way for everyone.”
It is believed that the prayers were a rejection of the perceived pro-Israel bias of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
There have only been small regular street rallies since that plan was launched last week. Few have responded to calls by President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority for ‘Days of Rage’.
The hashtag ‘Great Fajr Campaign’ – described as a show of solidarity against Trump and what they see as Israeli threats to Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron has since been trending on Facebook and other social media sites.
The first calls for a surge in attendance were from Fatah, Abbas’s nationalist political faction that dominates the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Numbers grew after the campaign gained support from the Islamist group Hamas, which holds sway in mosques, especially in cities where it has a sizeable following.