Thousands rally in Britain and France to denounce Israeli attacks on Gaza

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 July, 2014, 6:35am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 July, 2014, 6:44am

Thousands joined a pro-Palestinian rally in London yesterday, chanting "Israel is a terror state", while protesters defying a ban in Paris clashed with riot police blocking their march.

The London rally organisers said they expected a turnout of up to 20,000 on the march from Prime Minister David Cameron's office to the Israeli embassy.

In Paris, despite a rare police ban and warnings from President Francois Hollande, hundreds began massing for their march but clashed with police who blocked their route.

The demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at anti-riot squads which responded with tear gas lobbed into the streets.

The ban, which Hollande had said was to preserve "public order" following violence after similar marches, applied only to Paris. Thousands turned out in several other French cities for authorised demonstrations against the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Last Sunday, pro-Palestinian demonstrators tried to storm two synagogues in Paris, and clashed with Israeli supporters.

In London, demonstrators held up placards pleading for Israel to end its "attacks on Gaza", and reading "Stop the bombing, free Palestine", "Stop Israeli state terror, join the socialists" and "End Israeli apartheid".

The left-wing Stop the War Coalition, one of the organisers of the march, condemned British and American support for Israel as "nothing less than collusion with war crimes".

In France, the United States embassy issued a statement "strongly encouraging" its citizens to steer clear of the protests, saying "spontaneous clashes or eruptions of violence cannot be ruled out".

Hollande has said that he is seeking to avoid "importing" the Middle East conflict into France.

Those who insist on holding the rally "at all costs will bear the responsibility" for it, he said.