Police ban protest in Paris against Israel's Gaza offensive

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 July, 2014, 1:44am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2014, 4:44am


French police have banned a protest against Israel's Gaza offensive that was due to take place in Paris today, following several similar rallies that turned violent.

The ban, announced by police yesterday, comes in the wake of clashes earlier this month at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in which some protesters shouted anti-Semitic slogans and fought with police. Two of the rallies had been banned but went ahead anyway.

Following yesterday's announcement, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on the organisers to cancel the rally. "I urge the organisers to abandon the event on Saturday," he said, accusing them of taking a "high-risk path" if they went ahead.

But a lawyer representing the organisers said they had lodged a legal challenge against the ruling.

"The government is trying to ban a fundamental right", said Omar Alsoumi, an organiser of the protest and member of the Palestinian Youth movement.

On Wednesday, thousands protested peacefully in Paris against the offensive in Gaza. Police said the rally gathered about 14,500 people, while organisers put the figure at 25,000.

The government, which had banned the prior protests seeking to restrain what it called anti-Semitic radicals, authorised the march after its organisers gave "security guarantees".

Israel's offensive in Gaza, which is in its 18th day, has killed more than 820 Palestinians and 34 Israelis. The conflict has stirred up huge passions in France - home to the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in western Europe with around five million Muslims and half a million Jews.

Meanwhile, Germany's biggest airline, Lufthansa, said it and subsidiaries in other European countries would resume flights to Tel Aviv today after cancelling operations for several days over safety concerns. Lufthansa said that it made the decision "on the basis of the most up-to-date information we have available and our own assessment of the local security situation".

The European Aviation Safety Agency on Thursday lifted a recommendation that airlines refrain from flying to Israel's main airport.

Additional reporting by Associated Press