Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched in London and other cities on Saturday to demand Israel stop its offensive into Gaza, as the Israel-Hamas war entered its third week following the terror group’s October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, and its ripples spread around the globe.
On the day when the first aid trucks entered Gaza, where more than a million people have left their homes because of the conflict, protesters gathered in the rain at Marble Arch near London’s Hyde Park before marching to the government district, Whitehall.
Police estimated the crowd winding its way through central London at “up to 100,000.”
Waving Palestinian flags, participants called for an end to Israel’s blockade and airstrikes in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave, launched in the wake of the devastating October 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel in which 1,400 Israelis were killed.
Israel has long said its blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent Hamas from freely arming itself for war and attacks. It says its airstrikes, in response to the brutal massacre, are targeting all areas where Hamas operates while aiming to minimize civilian casualties, and its goal following the terror group’s murderous rampage across southern Israel is to destroy it.
The war has raised tensions around the world, with both Jewish and Muslim communities feeling under threat. The British Transport Police force said it was investigating after footage was posted online that appears to show a London Underground driver leading passengers in a chant of “Free, free Palestine” over the subway intercom.
Tube driver leads a chant of “Free Palestine” over the tannoy in London.
Jewish or Israeli people on this tube would not feel safe.
Shame on the TFL and shame on Sadiq Khan for creating a culture of fear in London. pic.twitter.com/G34H3v9WpK
— Turning Point UK ???????? (@TPointUK) October 21, 2023
British authorities have urged demonstrators to be mindful of the pain and anxiety felt by the Jewish community. London’s Metropolitan Police Force says it has seen a 13-fold upsurge in reports of antisemitic offenses in October compared to last year. Reports of anti-Muslim crimes have more than doubled.
Police said there had been “pockets of disorder and some instances of hate speech” during protests, but “the majority of the protest activity has been lawful and has taken place without incident.”
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters also gathered in Belfast and in Northern Ireland’s second city, Londonderry, where speakers included lawmaker Colum Eastwood of the Irish nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party.
“The murder of children is wrong,” he told the crowd, calling for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict. “I don’t know how that is so difficult for some of our world leaders to actually utter. It doesn’t matter whether they are Israeli children or Palestinian children.”
Across the border in the Republic of Ireland, thousands marched through the capital, Dublin, calling for an end to Israel’s bombardment.
In France, pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in several cities including Rennes, Montpellier, Dijon, and Lyon, where thousands of people could be seen chanting “We all are Palestinians” in the central square.
In Marseille, the country’s second-largest city, some people took to the streets, waving Palestinian flags and shouting “Free Gaza,” despite the protest being banned by local police.
A pro-Palestinian gathering scheduled for Sunday in Paris has been allowed by police.
Police in Berlin banned a pro-Palestinian demonstration that was scheduled for Sunday in the center of the city, German news agency dpa reported. Police in the German capital have stopped several similar events in recent weeks, citing the potential of violence and antisemitic hate speech. Some pro-Palestinian demonstrators have taken to the streets anyway, resulting in clashes with police.
Authorities have allowed a pro-Israel demonstration Sunday that is expected to gather thousands of people in central Berlin.
Elsewhere, several hundred people marched through Rome on Saturday, some holding signs saying “Palestine, Rome is with you,” and “No peace until we get freedom.”
In Australia, thousands marched through central Sydney on Saturday, shouting “Shame, shame Israel” and “Palestine will never die.”
The war broke out on October 7 when 2,500 terrorists broke through the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip in a multipronged, devastating onslaught. At least 1,400 people, a majority civilians, were killed, and terrorists took some 210 hostages of all ages.
Some 1,000 of those killed were civilians, with entire families slaughtered in their homes and over 260 people massacred at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what US President Joe Biden has highlighted as “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”
Israel says around 1,500 Hamas terrorists were killed in clashes before the IDF regained control of the area under assault.
In response, Israel launched an offensive aimed at destroying Hamas.
Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said the strikes have killed more than 4,300 Palestinians. The toll issued by the terror group cannot be independently authenticated and is believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen, as well as victims of a blast at a Gaza City hospital on October 17 caused by an Islamic Jihad misfired missile aimed at Israel, which Hamas has blamed on Israel. Israel has produced evidence showing the blast was caused by Gazan rocket that fell short. The United States, also citing its own data, has endorsed the Israeli account.
A small measure of relief for the Strip came when 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were allowed to enter Gaza across the southern Rafah border crossing with Egypt earlier Saturday.
The war sparked protests across the Arab world and beyond on Friday, including in the West Bank, where Palestinians burned tires and threw stones at military checkpoints. Israeli security forces responded firing tear gas and live rounds.
Crowds gathered in Israel’s northern neighbor Lebanon; in Iraq at the country’s border crossing with Jordan; in Jordan itself; in cities and towns across Egypt; in Turkey’s capital Ankara and its most populous city of Istanbul; and in Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, and South Africa.
In New York, hundreds of protesters from Muslim, Jewish, and other groups marched to US Sen. Kristen Gillibrand’s Manhattan office, many shouting “Ceasefire now.” Police later arrested dozens of protesters who blocked Third Avenue outside Gillibrand’s office by sitting in the street.
In Mexico City, dozens gathered outside the Israeli Embassy on Friday evening, lighting candles and chanting “Free Palestine.”
Pro-Israel demonstrations and vigils have also been held around the world, many focused on securing the return of hostages captured by Hamas.
Rome’s Jewish community on Friday remembered those held hostage by Hamas by setting a long Shabbat table for them outside the capital’s main synagogue with empty chairs for each of the hostages.
On the backs of each chair was a flyer featuring the name, age, and photo of each missing person. On the table were candles, wine, and loaves of challah, the braided bread typically eaten during the Friday night meal.