As the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza entered its fourth week, with no sign of a ceasefire in sight, pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets in major cities across the world on Saturday, demanding an end to the bloodshed and the blockade of the besieged territory.
In London, organizers claimed that more than 200,000 people joined the march, which started from Hyde Park and ended at the Israeli embassy. The protesters waved Palestinian flags, chanted slogans such as “Free Palestine” and “Stop the killing“, and held placards that read “Gaza needs our voice” and “Sanctions on Israel now”. Some also burned Israeli flags and effigies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Among the speakers at the rally were Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who urged the international community to protect the children of Gaza. “We cannot be silent when innocent civilians are being killed, when schools and hospitals are being bombed, when families are being torn apart,” Yousafzai said.
In New York, thousands of protesters marched from Brooklyn to Manhattan, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and blocking traffic for hours. They also staged a sit-in at Times Square, where they sang songs of solidarity and lit candles for the victims of the war. Some clashed with pro-Israel counter-protesters, who accused them of supporting terrorism and anti-Semitism.
Similar scenes were witnessed in other US cities, such as Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, where Jewish peace activists also joined the pro-Palestinian demonstrations. They denounced Israel’s actions as disproportionate and unjustified, and expressed their support for a two-state solution based on human rights and international law.
In Paris, despite a ban by the authorities due to Covid-19 restrictions, thousands of people defied the police and gathered at Place de la République, where they waved banners that said “Palestine will live, Palestine will win” and “Israel assassin, Macron complice”. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, and arrested dozens of protesters.
All Around the World
Other European cities that witnessed large-scale protests included Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Amsterdam and Stockholm. In Istanbul, tens of thousands of people filled the streets after Friday prayers, chanting “Down with Israel” and “Allahu Akbar”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the rally via video link, calling Israel a “terror state” and vowing to stand by the Palestinians.
In Baghdad, thousands of supporters of the Iran-backed militia group Kataib Hezbollah marched in a military-style parade, carrying rockets and missiles. They also burned Israeli and American flags, and threatened to launch attacks on Israel if the war continued. “We are ready to respond to any aggression by the Zionist enemy,” said Abu Ali al-Askari, a spokesman for the group.
In Tehran, hundreds of students staged a protest outside the UN office, where they threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the building. They also burned effigies of Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden, who has faced criticism for his muted response to the crisis. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the protesters for their “courageous stance” against Israel.
The protests came as the death toll in Gaza rose to more than 5,000, according to health officials. Among them were more than 2,000 children and 800 women. The UN said that more than half of Gaza’s population lacked access to clean water, electricity and health care, and that 80% of them depended on humanitarian aid.
Israel said that it had killed more than 1,000 Hamas fighters and destroyed hundreds of rocket launchers and tunnels. It also said that it had lost 63 soldiers and six civilians in the fighting. It accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields and firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns and cities.
The UN Security Council has failed to agree on a joint statement calling for a ceasefire, due to opposition from the US, which has repeatedly blocked any action that could be seen as critical of Israel. The US has also approved a $735 million arms sale to Israel amid the conflict.
The international community has urged both sides to de-escalate the situation and resume negotiations for a lasting peace. However, both Israel and Hamas have rejected any calls for a ceasefire without meeting their conditions. Israel has demanded that Hamas stop firing rockets and disarm completely. Hamas has demanded that Israel end its blockade of Gaza and its occupation of East Jerusalem.