Thousands march in Rabat demanding end to Morocco-Israel ties

 Moroccans wave Palestinian flags during a protest in Rabat on Dec. 24, 2023, in solidarity with Gaza amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. [VOA]

Thousands of protesters staged one of the largest pro-Palestinian marches Sunday in Rabat since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, demanding an end to Morocco's ties with Israel.

Protests of Israel's war in Gaza have repeatedly drawn thousands of people in Morocco since the conflict began more than two months ago, mostly led by pan-Arab and Islamist groups.

Sunday's march was co-organized by leftist groups and the outlawed but tolerated Adl wal Ihsan Islamists.

Most of the 10,000 protesters appeared to be Islamists with men marching separately from women, waving Palestinian flags and holding placards reading "resistance till victory," "stop Moroccan government normalization with Israel" and "free Palestine."

Morocco agreed to strengthen ties with Israel in 2020, under a deal brokered by the U.S. administration under then President Donald Trump that also included Washington recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Protesters in Sunday's march also called for a boycott of brands they accuse of supporting Israel.

Israel vowed to annihilate Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, after Hamas militants burst across the border fence on Oct. 7 and went on a rampage through Israeli towns, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages.

Since then, Gaza's health authorities say more than 20,000 people have been confirmed killed in Israeli strikes and a ground offensive, with thousands more missing and presumed dead under the rubble.

Despite their policy of normalizing ties with Israel, Moroccan authorities have continued to back the creation of a Palestinian state and have urged a cease-fire in Gaza and the protection of all civilians there.

Although Morocco and Israel have not yet completed the process of setting up full embassies in each other's countries as they agreed, they have moved closer together, signing a defense cooperation pact.