Chris Barrett and Karuni Rompies, Singapore/Jakarta – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called for the "root cause" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be addressed, as hardline Islamic groups took to the street outside the United States embassy in Jakarta declaring they were ready to fight in the Middle East.
Like neighbouring Malaysia, Indonesia has historically been a vocal advocate of the Palestinian cause and does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
In the wake of Hamas' terrorist attack on southern Israel, and the bombardment unleashed on the blockaded Gaza Strip in response, Widodo has pleaded for an immediate cessation of violence, concerned it could spiral into a greater humanitarian crisis. But he has also reiterated the need for a long-elusive two-state solution in the Middle East.
"The root cause of the conflict, namely the occupation of Palestinian area by Israel, must soon be solved in accordance with parameters agreed by the United Nations," said Widodo.
The president's statement was followed on Wednesday by a protest staged outside the US embassy by Islamic organisations GNPF and 212 Movement, and included members of the banned Islam Defenders' Front.
The several hundred demonstrators – many holding Palestinian flags – prayed to "expel Zionist Israel from Palestinian soil" as American embassy personnel reinforced security with barbed wire and 900 police stood guard.
"Today we hear the call of jihad," a female protest leader told the crowd. "If Allah says we have to fight against the Jews, we are ready to go to Palestine.
"We are now in front of the US embassy, the ruler of the world who has big power. Let's bring justice to Palestine. They are living on their land, but they are bombarded. What do you say, world ruler, that Palestine is destroyed like that? If the world ruler is quiet, we Indonesians are ready to go to Palestine."
Later, crowd members chanted for the embassy to "open the gate now" and burnt an American flag.
There are about 240 million Muslims in the sprawling archipelagic state – more than in any other nation. But with the vast majority practising a moderate form of Islam, the Indonesian government's decades-long backing of the Palestinian struggle has been shaped as much by a deeply entrenched anti-colonial sentiment as by religion.
The Malaysian government, led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, has taken an even more muscular stance on Israel this week, while urging restraint and de-escalation for the protection of innocent civilians.
His government quickly announced it was increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza as the Israeli military began to pound the Palestinian enclave in response to Hamas' weekend assault.
The Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry said: "The Palestinians have been subjected to the prolonged illegal occupation, blockade and sufferings, the desecration of Al-Aqsa [mosque in Jerusalem], as well as the politics of dispossession at the hands of Israel as the occupier."
The reactions of Indonesia and Malaysia are indicative of the variance in world views among South-East Asian governments.
Singapore said it strongly condemned Hamas' rocket and terror attacks, while Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin denounced them as inhumane, extending his "deepest condolences to the government and people of Israel".
Outside Israel and the Gaza Strip, Thailand is among the most affected in terms of lives lost and in the number of people taken hostage.
An estimated 30,000 Thais live in Israel, many working as labourers on farms, and 20 were feared killed by Hamas gunmen, according to the Foreign Ministry, which said another 14 Thai citizens had been captured.
The figures are based on the accounts of employers and other workers and are unofficial, but if confirmed it would be higher than any other outside nationality.
On Wednesday, the Philippines, another significant provider of migrant workers to Israel, reported two deaths.
"The Philippines condemns the killing of two Filipino nationals and all other acts of terrorism and violence as a result of Hamas actions against Israel," wrote Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo on X (formerly Twitter) while on an official visit to Australia.