Thousands join Pro-Palestinian rallies in London, Paris

19th July 2014, Comments 0 comments

Thousands joined a pro-Palestinian rally in London on Saturday, chanting "Israel is a terror state", while protesters defying a ban in Paris clashed with riot police blocking their march.

The London rally organisers said they expected a turnout of up to 20,000 people on the march from Prime Minister David Cameron's office to the Israeli embassy.

In Paris, despite a rare police ban and warnings from President Francois Hollande, hundreds began massing for their march but clashed with police who blocked their route.

The demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at anti-riot squads which responded with tear gas lobbied into the streets.

The ban, which Hollande had said was to preserve "public order" following violence after similar marches, applied only to Paris. Thousands turned out in several other French cities for authorised demonstrations against the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza.

On July 13, pro-Palestinian demonstrators tried to storm two synagogues in Paris during a rally, and clashed with Israeli supporters.

Twelve days of violence between Israeli forces and Hamas have led to more than 335 deaths, the majority of them Palestinian civilians.

In London, demonstrators held up placards pleading for Israel to end its "attacks on Gaza", and reading "Stop the bombing, free Palestine", "Stop Israeli state terror, join the socialists" and "End Israeli apartheid".

The left-wing Stop the War Coalition, one of the organisers of the march, condemned British and US support for Israel as "nothing less than collusion with war crimes killing women, children and disabled people".

In France, the US embassy issued a statement "strongly encouraging" its citizens to steer clear of the protests, saying that because of their unauthorised nature and "due to the current political environment in the Middle East, spontaneous clashes or eruptions of violence cannot be ruled out."

Hollande, speaking from west Africa, has said that he is seeking to avoid "importing" the Middle East conflict into France.

Participants who insist on holding the rally "at all costs will bear the responsibility" for it, he added on Saturday.

However, he added, "this isn't going to stop other forms of expression."

Authorities say organisers who defy the ban will face a six-month prison term and 7,500-euro fine.

Meanwhile Belgian police were concerned that unauthorised demonstrations would take place in Brussels and Antwerp on Saturday.

Representatives from Belgium's Jewish and Muslim communities joined together on Friday to call for good relations to be upheld between religious communities.


© 2014 AFP

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