Police in London say nearly 100,000 people marched in the British capital in an event organised by pro-Palestinian groups, one of several such protests across Europe.
Demonstrators held signs reading “Freedom for Palestine”, “Stop Bombing Gaza” and “End Israeli Apartheid”. Many waved Palestinian flags and some chanted “5, 6, 7, 8, Israel is a terrorist state” and “Free Palestine”.
Since the shock Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, which left 1,400 dead, Israel has launched devastating air and ground bombardments of Gaza. The Hamas authorities say 4,385 people have died.
The London march brought traffic at the Marble Arch landmark to a standstill, and police said on X (formerly Twitter) that almost 100,000 had attended. It broke up peacefully close to Downing Street.
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“We came to show our support because we can’t stay silent, watch the news, and then do nothing,” Mariam Abdul-Ghani, an 18-year-old student whose family is from the Palestinian territories, told AFP.
David Rosenberg, a member of the Jewish Socialists Group, said he was there “to give solidarity and to disrupt that narrative that says it’s Muslims versus Jews, Palestinians versus Israelis.
“I’m 65 but there are people here in their 20s and 30s, who have grown up in mainstream Jewish households, who cannot stand what is supposedly done in their name,” he added.
Protests in Europe
“I do have cousins, family and friends (there)”, said Nivert Tamraz, a 38-year-old marketing consultant, who came with her children so they “understand that sometimes everyone has to stand for humanity and not just shy away.”
“I have a friend whose family is in Gaza, they can’t even get in touch with them, it’s horrible for them, they don’t know if they are dead, if they are alive,” she added.
Other demonstrations took place in Birmingham, central England, Cardiff in Wales and the Scottish city of Glasgow.
There were also protests in other European countries.
Pro-Palestinian rallies took place in several French cities. In the southern city of Lyon, more than a thousand people turned out for one demonstration, which was authorised at the last minute.
There were also demonstrations in the southern Mediterranean city of Marseille, in Rennes, in the northwest, and in the northeastern city of Metz.
Earlier this week, France’s top administrative court, the Council of State, overturned a number of bans on such demonstrations imposed by regional authorities. They had issued the bans after Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin ordered them to do so on public order grounds.
Thousands also marched in cities across Spain including the capital of Spain, Barcelona, Zaragoza and San Sebastien.
And in Italy, thousands marched in support of Palestinians in the northern city of Milan.
The first aid trucks arrived in the war-torn Gaza Strip from Egypt on Saturday, bringing humanitarian relief to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave.
Hours later, Israel announced it was stepping up its bombardment of the Hamas-controlled territory.
Israel has massed tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks along the Gaza border for a widely anticipated ground invasion.