Thousands of protesters took to the streets of London on Saturday and called for a ‘free Palestine’ and for Israel to put an end to ‘unprecedented attacks’ on Palestinians. The protesters held banners demanding the UK government to stop ‘arming Israel’. The demonstration was a collaboration by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition.
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The protest follows last weeks escalation along the Gaza border with about 700 rockets fired into Israel and retaliatory airstrikes by Israel’s air force. 25 Palestinians and four Israelis were killed.
The protests and demonstration coincided with a day commemorating the Nakba or ‘catastrophe’ that led to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians following the declaration of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948. The protesters, including members of ultra Orthodox Jewish community – the Haredit said they did not support the oppression of the Palestinian people. They believed that Benjamin Netanyahu’s election promise to annex the West Bank and US President Donald Trump’s plans for peace in the region – which he has dubbed the ‘deal of the century’ were key obstacles to the realization of Palestinian rights. However, Israeli authorities have denied allegations of attacks on Palestinians and said the State recognizes settlement building as legal under its own laws.
The Israeli government has also defended the airstrikes saying its carried out to counter militant activity. Moreover, a small counter-protest was held with pro-Israel activists waving Israeli flags. However, Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn expressed his support for the Palestinians. “We cannot stand by or stay silent at the continuing denial of rights and justice to the Palestinian people,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “The Labor Party is united in condemning the ongoing human rights abuses by Israeli forces, including the shooting of hundreds of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza – demanding their rights.”
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Meanwhile, Israel has reopened its border crossings with Gaza Strip. This is part of the cease-fire agreement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad that ended a week ago.