The Bahrain Parliament was thrown into an uproar when lawmakers engaged in a verbal duel for at least ten minutes.
The Shiite and Sunni MPs exchanged insults over a statement the Parliament issued condemning the US-led military operation in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The statement, which was issued upon the instance of Islamist MPs, said the US troops were committing "horrific massacres" against the civilians in the Iraqi city, a stronghold of militants.
A spokesman for an Islamic group told Gulf News that a donation campaign was underway to send relief to the residents of Fallujah.
In its statement, issued at the end of Tuesday's weekly session, the 40-member elected Parliament claimed that "hundreds of innocent people" have been killed in the US-led offensive against the militants in the Sunni city.
"The Council of Representatives expressed its deep sorrow at the "tragic circumstances" and practices of the occupation forces against the Iraqi people, and condemned the "horrific massacres" which are taking place in Fallujah and the other Iraqi cities," the statement said.
As the council voted to approve the statement, members said they did not agree that Fallujah is "a den of terrorists".
"The Iraqi interim government has the right to rid the city of the foreign mercenaries and the terrorists," MP Abdullah Al Aali, a Shiite cleric, said.
Al Aali's remarks angered a number of Sunni MPs. "Shut up! The people of Fallujah are heroes," a furious MP Mohammad Khalid told Al Aali. "You and those like you are the killers," he added, pointing his finger at him.
Al Aali shot back with similar remarks as other MPs also entered the fray. A couple of them were obviously about to engage in more than words when the Speaker Khalifa Al Dahrani ended the session.
The Bahraini Parliament, elected in October 2002, is dominated by Islamists. They make up more than half of the seats.
In the statement, the Parliament urged "all concerned parties to respect the human rights international convention and agreements regarding the protection of civilians and in order to protect the innocents and preserve the Iraqi people's dignity, freedom, security and tranquility, as well as to rebuild a unified and peaceful Iraq which will be able to achieve political harmony for its people through legitimate elections to be held in January next year and that should take place following the withdrawal of the occupation forces."
A leading Islamist MP told Gulf News that "all Bahrainis were very sympathetic with their brethren in Fallujah."
"The attack on the city is (US President George) Bush's gift to Muslims following his re-election. He also wants to reaffirm his policy of confrontation with the Islamic nation," said Shaikh Adel Al Mawdah, a Salafist cleric who is also a Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
An Islamist activist said his group has planned a donation campaign to send aid to residents of Fallujah.
The campaign focuses on the kingdom's mosques, which are usually packed with believers during Ramadan, he said.
"About 4,500 blankets will be initially sent to the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi (situated to the west of Baghdad) to help those displaced by the US-led coalition forces operations," he added.
Meanwhile, the Bahraini Government said that it was sending medical aid to Iraq as part of its efforts to help its people.
A statement said that the shipment of medicine will be sent to Iraq upon the order of Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa.
A number of Iraqi cancer patients will also arrive in Bahrain later this month for treatment here, the statement said.