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6 months of war: Anger grows even in Arab countries having peace treaties with Israel

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Now for a look at the repercussions of the war across the broader Middle East. In neighboring countries, the rage over Israel's killing of civilians is growing. That includes two Arab countries which signed peace treaties with Israel decades ago. As NPR's Jane Arraf reports, that anger is threatening to further destabilize the region.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting in non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in non-English language).

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: This is a protest near the Israeli embassy in Jordan. The embassy is officially closed, but there are hundreds of security forces here making sure protesters don't get too close. A majority of Jordanian citizens are originally of Palestinian origin. Anti-Israel protests are common. But six months into the war, with more than 32,000 Palestinians dead - most of them women and children - the protests and the response have taken a different twist.

And it's almost midnight and here come the riot police with shields. Up until now, it's just been regular security forces. There are quite a lot of families here, including parents with infants, and it's a peaceful atmosphere. But clearly the government feels this could turn into a threat. So much of a threat that for the first time, police are taking away Palestinian flags, here in a country where for the last six months, that flag has been displayed almost everywhere in solidarity.

ENIS SAMIR: It's sad because that's not freedom. This is not what we love for Jordan to be.

ARRAF: That's Enis Samir, a Jordanian American software engineer who's here with his wife Layla Anwari, who has relatives trapped in Gaza. There are giant Jordanian flags unfurled on buildings around the protest. This is a country where many East Bank Jordanians feel risk of being overwhelmed by their Palestinian citizens.

BUTHAINA: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Buthaina, who does not want to give her a last name so she doesn't run afoul of her conservative family, wants Jordan to take a stronger stand against Israel.

BUTHAINA: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: "We're defending Jordan and Palestine," she says. But Jordan has pinned its regional and economic stability on the peace treaty with Israel it signed 30 years ago, and the kingdom has been cracking down, increasingly arresting activists and protesters. Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel 45 years ago, can't afford to cut ties with Israel or anger the U.S., either.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting in non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in non-English language).

ARRAF: But in Cairo, small numbers of protesters outside the journalists' union this week risked arrest to demand Egypt do more to help Palestinians in Gaza. Mada Masr, an independent news outlet, says police later took away at least ten protesters from their homes. And in Lebanon, six months into a low-grade war at the border between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah, there are increasing fears of a wider war breaking out. That's after Iran blamed Israel for airstrikes on its embassy compound in Damascus that killed one of its most senior security commanders. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told followers that the airstrikes were a turning point in the war.

HASSAN NASRALLAH: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: He said Iran would be certain to avenge the attack.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

ARRAF: In Tyre last week we visited a school where families have taken refuge since shortly after the war began. We talked to Ali Mohammad, who's 12.

ALI MOHAMMAD: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: He says the first time he heard an airstrike, he was really, really scared. But he says, little by little, he got used to it.

ALI: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Ali says his cousin was killed by an Israeli airstrike while he was fighting.

ALI: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: I ask him what he wants to do when he finishes school. This boy, who loves math and sports says he isn't sure, but maybe a martyr. God willing, a doctor, his mother, Fatima Sayyed says. War in Gaza has changed so many things, even far from its borders, including children's dreams.

Jane Arraf, NPR News, Tyre, Lebanon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.

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