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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON — Pro-Palestinian protests are taking place across the UK, including in London and Manchester.
In London, several thousand people marched from the BBC’s New Broadcasting House to Downing Street. More than 1,000 police officers were deployed.
Police warned that anyone showing support for Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organization, or deviating from the route, could face arrest.
It comes a week after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel.
Fighters from the Palestinian militant group entered communities near the Gaza Strip, killing at least 1,300 people, and took scores of hostages.
More than 2,200 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched retaliatory air strikes and a ground offensive is also expected.
In London at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration, Palestine flags and supportive placards were waved as people chanted during the march to Downing Street.
One protester, Mike, from north-west London, told the PA news agency: “The injustice of the situation is just totally outstanding.”
The Metropolitan Police said certain areas of central London were covered by a Section 60AA power, which requires a person to remove items such as masks that might be used to conceal their identity, until 22:00 BST.
The force said it was aware of people lighting flares or fireworks and said: “Action will be taken when we identify those in possession of/throwing them.”
Protesters on the route to Westminster could also be heard chanting “Rishi Sunak, shame on you” and the contentious slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.
Earlier this week, Home Secretary Suella Braverman urged police chiefs to consider whether the slogan should be interpreted as an “expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world”, possibly making it a “racially aggravated” public order offence in some contexts.
Rallies are taking place in a number of UK cities including Liverpool, Bristol, Cambridge, Norwich, Coventry, Edinburgh and Swansea.
Addressing the gathering in London, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said British politicians should not condone Israel’s bombing campaign.
Describing the march as a “day of solidarity”, the now-independent MP said: “If you believe in international law, if you believe in human rights, then you must condemn what is happening now in Gaza by the Israeli army.”
The London protest began at the BBC’s headquarters in Portland Place, which was vandalized overnight with red paint splattered over the building’s entrance.
In a social media post later on Saturday, activist group Palestine Action claimed responsibility for daubing the building in “blood red paint, symbolizing their complicity in Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people through biased reporting”.
The Metropolitan Police said it was “investigating an incident of criminal damage to a building in Portland Place, W1A”.
“We are aware of a video posted online claiming responsibility and this will form part of our investigation,” the force said, adding that no arrests had been made and its enquiries are ongoing.
On Friday Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor told a press briefing there had been a “massive increase” in antisemitic incidents in London since the Hamas attacks.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the rise “disgusting” and said that intimidating or threatening behavior would be “met with the full force of the law”.
He said Israel had “every right to defend itself” from Hamas attacks, but stressed that civilian safety must be “paramount in our minds”.
Orly Goldschmidt, spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy to the UK, said Israel was not targeting civilians but told Times Radio: “There will be innocent people who will pay tragically with their life, but this is a state of war and we have to prevent anyone from harming us again.”
“We have no quarrel with the Palestinian people. We are trying to protect ourselves from the Hamas barbaric organization, which is exactly if not worse than Isis.” — BBC
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