Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Sydney and Melbourne to protest Israel and its worsening military attack in the Gaza Strip, as violent conflicts in has devolved into a full-fledged war.
A huge crowd gathered at Sydney’s Town Hall to protest Israel’s decades-long seizure of ancient Palestinian territory, as well as the week’s increasing bombings against Hamas.
According to local authorities, Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have killed 181 Palestinians, included 52 teenagers, and injured over 1000 others in recent days. At least eight Israelis have been killed by Hamas missiles launched into southern Israel.
Attendees at the rally in Sydney’s CBD wore Palestinian flags and the symbolic chequered keffiyeh scarf to commemorate what Arabs term the Nakba – the “catastrophe” synonymous with the establishment of Israel and the mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948.
The protesters chanted in support of the Palestinian cause in Arabic and English, demanding a “free Palestine” and stop the occupation. They chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, “Free Gaza” and “Long live Palestine”.
The moto, which is common among Palestinian nationalists, refers to the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which includes modern Israel as well as the Palestinian territories. The term is condemned by Zionists as an act of support for the abolition of Israel.
A 22-year-old protestors said “My family is sending very distressing videos with sounds of cries and screams, and that’s not OK. That’s nothing that we as a country should sit back and just watch happen. When we stand together there is so much unity, and where there is unity there is victory.”
Another attendee cried “My heart bleeds for Palestine”. “My heart bleeds for all of those families that have lost children, and parents and grandparents.”
There, Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi also spoke out against the deteriorating situation in Gaza. She said “what is happening in Palestine now is not an isolated incident. It is part of a broader pattern of destroying the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians”.
Australia has reiterated its support for a two-state solution and called for a de-escalation of the crisis between Israel and Hamas.
This week Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced “Israel unquestionably has the right to defend itself and its people. Unquestionably.” “And, equally, Palestinians need to be able to live safely,” he added.
Australia’s Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, used a translator to say: “We demand the world and especially Australia take a firm stand against this immediately.”
Conflicts between Israel and Palestine spiked in the previous week as a result of disagreements over holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City and the displacement of Arab families from Sheikh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighborhood.
Hamas has warned the violence, if settlers do not withdraw from the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah. They launched over 200 rockets at Jerusalem and southern Israel on Monday evening, and over 2000 rockets in total afterward. And it leaded to a full-fledged conflict between Israel and Hamas.
As Israel mobilized forces at the Gaza border, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Hamas would “pay a very heavy price” for its rocket attacks. US President Joe Biden has voiced his support for Israel while also expressing his desire for an end to the conflict.
As the unrest in Gaza stimulates the annual commemoration of Nakba Day on May 15, tensions have extended to the West Bank, where an estimated 5000 Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops amid protests. various groups and characters around the world, including celebrities, athletes and politicians, voiced support for Palestinians and called for an immediate end to hostilities.
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