Thousands in Europe rally for Palestinians

Peaceful protest held in London while demonstrators in Paris defy ban on protests and clash with riot police.

    Thousands in Europe rally for Palestinians
    Thousands of London demonstrators protested peacefully against Israel's air strikes in Gaza [Reuters]

    Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have marched across Europe, calling on their governments to condemn Israel's military bombardment of Gaza.

    While several thousand people marched in a peaceful protest in London on Saturday, a demonstration in northern Paris turned violent when protesters, defying a ban on their planned rally, clashed with riot police.

    The ban on Paris and Nice protests could not stop the hundreds who turned out in the French capital from clashing with police, who fired tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at demonstrators who had launched projectiles.

    The demonstrators also climbed on top of a building and burned an Israeli flag. At least one car was set on fire.

    A police spokesman said that 38 demonstrators had been arrested by early evening and that the clashes were dying down.

    However, dozens of police vehicles were seen rolling into the narrow streets of the historically Jewish Marais neighbourhood where French media said groups of protesters had assembled.

    Hollande's remarks

    President Francois Hollande earlier said he had asked his interior minister to ban protests that could turn violent after demonstrators marched on two synagogues in Paris last weekend and clashed with riot police.

    "That's why I asked the interior minister, after an investigation, to ensure that such protests would not take place," he said during a visit to Chad.

    In defiance of the ban, large crowds gathered in northern Paris chanting "Israel, assassin" until they were dispersed by tear gas.

    Peaceful rallies were also held in more than a dozen other French cities, from Lille in the north to Marseille in the south.

    Laurent Fabius, foreign minister, responded to criticism France was biased in favour of Israel, which sent ground forces into Gaza on Thursday after 10 days of air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

    "In no way does this mean that the French government has taken a position against the Palestinians," he said during a visit to Jordan.

    In London, thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched peacefully clutching Palestinian flags and banners reading "Stop the bombing" and "Free Palestine" before congregating outside the Israeli embassy.

    Many of the protesters were angered over the British government's lack of action over the conflict and its failure to condemn the Israeli assault.

    Al Jazeera's Sonia Gallego, reporting from London, said the turnout at the protests showed that people in the West were becoming increasingly angered by their governments' failure to condemn Israel's military actions.

    "The protests show that it may be becoming more difficult for Israel's allies to justify its actions there [in Gaza]," she said.

    A demonstration in Geneva against Israel's military action drew about 300 protesters to the front of the UN European headquarters in the Swiss city.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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