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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in London on Saturday to call for a cease-fire in Gaza amid ongoing bombardments by Israel after the deadly Hamas attack on its territory on Oct. 7.
It was the fourth consecutive week that the British capital was the venue for a large rally in support of Palestinians since the attack by Hamas last month.
At the rally, held in Trafalgar Square in central London, protesters waved Palestinian flags and held placards calling for an immediate cease-fire.
One group of protesters held a bundle of fabric, representing a dead baby killed during the Israeli bombing campaign.
Sama Dababneh, 26, a Jordanian business consultant who came to the rally with her Palestinian friends, said they were tired of the stream of upsetting images coming from Gaza.
“We came here to support the cease-fire,” she said.
“We spend the whole week consuming the news and this is very draining, so this is our only form of outlet.”
London’s Metropolitan Police estimate that around 30,000 attended the rally in central London on Saturday.
The force said it had arrested 11 people, including one for displaying a placard that could incite hatred.
Pro-Palestinian groups say they are planning to march in Britain’s capital on Saturday Nov. 11, Armistice Day, to demand an immediate cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
On Friday British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that planning protests for Nov. 11, a day of remembrance for soldiers killed in the two world wars and subsequent conflicts, would be “provocative and disrespectful.”
There was a clear and present risk that the Cenotaph and other war memorials could be desecrated in a protest, something which would “be an affront to the British public and the values we stand for,” he said.
Dababneh said she would be one of those protesting on Armistice Day.
“I am coming for sure,” she said.
“What is happening in Palestine shows that we didn’t learn anything from what happened before.”
Joanna Mazouzi, 50, said she attended the march because she cares about the suffering of the Palestinian people.
“They have a right to live on their own land, in their own country.”
“It’s huge and every week there are more and more, because the more Israel bombs and kills innocent, defenseless people, the more people will come.”
Abdullah Hussain, 37, unemployed, came to the rally with his two sons, both aged five.
“We see thousands of children dying, schools are bombed, hospitals are bombed, and it’s indiscriminate,” he said.
Pro-Palestinian protests took place in cities across the United Kingdom on Saturday, including in Sheffield, Manchester and Glasgow where protesters waved Palestinian flags and called for an immediate cease-fire.
They also held demonstrators in Berlin, Paris, Ankara and Istanbul to call for a cease-fire in Gaza and castigate Israel after its military intensified its assault.
In central Paris, thousands marched to call for a cease-fire with placards reading “Stop the cycle of violence” and “To do nothing, to say nothing is to be complicit.”
It was one of the first, big gatherings in support of Palestinians to be legally allowed in Paris since the Hamas attack of Oct. 7.
French authorities had banned some previous pro-Palestinian gatherings due to concerns about public disorder.
France will host an international humanitarian conference on Gaza on Nov. 9 as it looks to coordinate aid for the enclave.
“We came here today to show the people of France’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and our support for peace, for a peace solution with two states, an Israeli state and a Palestinian state,” said Antoine Guerreiro, a 30-year old civil servant.
Wahid Barek, a 66-year old retiree, lamented the deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
“I deplore civilian deaths on both sides. Civilians have nothing to do with these actions. It really is shameful,” he said.
In Berlin, demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, demanding a cease-fire. One woman marched with her arm in the air, her hand covered in fake blood.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Istanbul and Ankara, a day before a visit to Turkiye by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for talks on Gaza.
Turkiye, which has sharply criticized Israel and Western countries as the humanitarian crisis has intensified in Gaza, supports a two-state solution and hosts members of Hamas. Ankara does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization, unlike the United States, the European Union, and some Gulf states.
In Istanbul’s Sarachane park, protesters held banners saying “Blinken, the accomplice of the massacre, go away from Turkiye,” with a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blinken together with a red “X” mark on it.
“Children are dying, babies are dying there, being bombed,” said 45-year-old teacher Gulsum Alpay.
Footage from Ankara showed protesters gathered near the US Embassy, chanting slogans and holding posters which read: “Israel bombs hospitals, Biden pays for it.”
(With AFP and Reuters)
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