| A placard with photos of Arab leaders portrayed as puppets of the US during a protest in Rafah refugee camp, Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Cairo, April 8 (Reuters): Anger mixed with defiance in the Arab world as it watched US forces advance into the heart of Baghdad today in their drive to topple President Saddam Hussein.
Emotions ran high, stoked by relentless television coverage of US tanks rumbling across the Iraqi capital and Baghdad’s hospitals overflowing with casualties.
Some Arabs called for armed struggle, including suicide bombings, to drive out the Anglo-American “invaders”.
Others refused to believe the Americans were in Baghdad. Many mourned the fall of a historic centre of Arab and Islamic civilisation.
“Our last walls of resistance fell in Baghdad. I feel like an orphan now,” said Samia Megtouf, a 20-year-old university student in Tunis.
Samir Ragab, editor of Egypt’s semi-official al Gomhuria daily, lamented that Baghdad’s resistance was crumbling before the the world’s only superpower and called for guerrilla war against the invaders.
“The Arab nation will wake up one morning to discover that Haroun al-Rashid’s capital has been stolen by force,” he wrote in a column, referring to a prominent caliph who ruled in Baghdad more than a millennium ago, during the golden Abbasid era.
“The only solution lies in the armed struggle and martyrdom bombers until the aggressors are compelled to withdraw in disgrace,” he added.
While some Iraqi exiles, Kuwaitis and others have welcomed the American and British invasion, they seem hugely outnumbered by opponents of the war across the Arab world.
“I am really very shocked and sad,” said Ali Abbas, an employee at a private company in Bahrain. “It’s very bad and its unfair to see foreign tanks in an Arab capital. I couldn’t sleep for thinking of the people in Baghdad.”
Akil Rashed, a 43-year-old Saudi civil servant in Riyadh said: “By committing such actions, the US is no longer a superpower because these actions are only committed by backward countries with narrow scopes.”
Fahd Saleh, a 38-year-old Saudi civil servant, added: “I am starting to hate America after I used to love it.”
“This new government and this reckless clique which has failed in building an international coalition, attempted to cover up its failure by trying to impose its hegemony on helpless peoples.”
Amid the anger and bitterness, some said they could not believe that Baghdad would fall so easily. “The Arab nation is tasting another defeat. I have a bitter taste in my mouth. It is difficult to think now,” says Ali Findouli, a 55-year-old Tunis shop owner.
Ahmad al-Maliki, a minibus driver in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, insisted that the television footage was a lie.
“At the beginning, the pictures shocked me and I decided to stop watching television, but broadcasts by satellite channels that are against the war exposed the fact that they are fake,” Maliki said.
In Cairo, 40-year-old Sabri al-Aissawi said he was sure Iraqis were fighting back against the US troops.
“The Iraqis will not let them in easily. They are hitting them hard,” he said.