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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Pro-Palestinian protesters in the UK should “stay at home” after a series of demonstrations across the country “caused concern” among the Jewish community, the foreign minister said.
James Cleverly’s comments came as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned that people who support Hamas in the UK will be “held to account.”
Three people were arrested on Monday evening near the Israeli Embassy in London after a massive protest organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Hundreds gathered outside the building, which was boarded up ahead of the protest.
Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and called on Israel to end its occupation.
Chants of “Free Palestine” and “Israel is a terrorist state” were heard amid fireworks and flares.
London’s Metropolitan Police said it would mobilize an “enhanced visible presence” on the streets, with a “special focus” on protecting Jewish communities around the capital, The Independent reported.
Cleverly told Sky News that the pro-Palestine protests were affecting people “who have often been on the receiving end of prejudice and threats of violence.”
The demonstrations were “causing distress,” he said, adding that there was “no necessity for people to come out.”
Cleverly said: “This is a difficult, delicate situation … I would encourage them just to pause.”
Sky asked the foreign minister whether he wanted to offer support to people in Gaza, but Cleverly declined to answer, saying: “The truth is that the reason we express our solidarity with the people of Israel is because terrorists took action to murder, to kidnap, and we’re now seeing reports that they are threatening to execute people that they have kidnapped.”
During a visit to Staffordshire on Tuesday, Sunak vowed to “hold to account” Hamas supporters in the UK, The Guardian reported.
He added that the UK stands ready to assist any British-Israeli dual nationals affected by the conflict.
Police officers will “clamp down on any behavior that falls foul of the law,” Sunak said, referring to Britain’s proscription of Hamas.
Showing public support for the Palestinian party carries a punishment in the UK of up to 10 years’ imprisonment on anti-terror grounds.
Sunak said: “I’d just remind everyone that Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organization. People should not be supporting Hamas, and we will make sure that we hold people to account if they are.”
The police have been “given very clear guidance and advice from the government to do everything that they can” to keep the Jewish community safe, he added.
In response to Monday night’s protests in London, the Metropolitan Police said it was balancing the right to lawful protest with any disruption to Londoners.
A statement by the force said that it was “aware of concerns about the use of flags and symbols on London’s streets that could lead to people feeling threatened.”
Since Hamas’ strike into southern Israel on Saturday, more than 1,000 people on both sides have been killed.
Authorities in Gaza have reported about 700 deaths in the wake of Israeli airstrikes on the besieged enclave.
Tel Aviv mobilized thousands of reservists as part of plans to stage a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday vowed to make sure “no power, no food, no gas” will reach the territory.
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