LONDON — Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched in central London on Saturday calling for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
It was the third consecutive weekend that the British capital was the venue for a large rally in support of Palestinians since the devastating attack by terror group Hamas on Israel earlier this month.
Many demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans including “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which essentially calls for the elimination of Israel and which some Jewish organizations say is antisemitic.
They also held signs that read “Free Palestine” and “Gaza, stop the massacre,” while some protesters let off fireworks and red and green flares.
Dani Nadiri, 36, said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s call for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting to allow aid into Gaza and hostages to leave was not enough.
“A full ceasefire needs to happen,” the TV producer told AFP, adding: “It’s time now to do something rather than let it escalate any further.”
Noori Butt, from Luton in southern England, said she just wanted the war “to end.”
“It can’t go on like this. The world is dying and I want lasting peace for everybody. That’s the way it should be,” the 38-year-old teacher told AFP.
About 100,000 people joined the “March for Palestine,” according to British media, which reported that a few demonstrators threw kicks and punches at police officers as they detained someone near the British parliament.
London’s Metropolitan Police, which deployed more than 1,000 officers to patrol the march, said one protester was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer.
A man was also arrested for making racist remarks and threats to kill, the force added.
War erupted on October 7 when some 2,500 terrorists led by Hamas streamed into Israel by land, sea and air, killing over 1,400 people, a majority of them civilians slain in their homes and at an outdoor music festival. Hamas and allied terrorist factions also dragged over 230 hostages — including some 30 children — into the Gaza Strip where they remain captive.
The assault came under cover of a barrage of thousands of rockets fired at Israel. Rocket fire from Gaza has continued ever since, frequently sending hundreds of thousands of people in southern and central Israel into bomb shelters and displacing over 200,000 people who have evacuated the worst-hit areas. There has also been sporadic rocket fire at northern Israel from terror groups in Lebanon.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and for three weeks has carried out intensive strikes on Gaza while saying it is seeking to minimize harm to civilians. The IDF has massed troops ahead of an expected ground incursion and has already conducted several limited land raids into the Palestinian enclave.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says the Israeli strikes have killed over 7,000 people, many of them children. The figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen killed in Israel and in Gaza, and the victims of what Israel says are hundreds of errant Palestinian rockets aimed at Israel that have landed inside the Strip since the war began.
Saturday’s protest in London came as Israel intensified its assault on Gaza Strip late Friday.
The demonstrators gathered at a central point by the River Thames at midday, before making their way to the UK parliament in Westminster.
The force had said it would not tolerate any hate crimes during the march.
Expressing support for Palestinians is allowed in Britain but praising Hamas — a banned terrorist organization in the UK — is not.
Police said officers would intervene if protesters used the word “jihad” in chants.
Nearly 100,000 people attended a similar march in London last Saturday. Thousands also rallied in the British capital on October 14.
Other rallies took place Saturday in Manchester and Glasgow, Scotland.
The UK government’s stance on refraining from calling for a ceasefire is in line with the position of the United States. Both say Israel has the right to defend itself within international law.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Saturday that Hamas has given no indication it “desires or would abide by calls for a ceasefire.”
Pro-Palestinian demonstrations also took place Saturday in Germany, Indonesia, Pakistan, France, Italy, Norway and Switzerland.
On Friday, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but made no mention of Hamas, drawing praise from the Islamist terror group and condemnation from Israel.
The US was among 14 countries that voted against the resolution. The United Kingdom abstained.
The UN resolution called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all civilians, the protection of civilians and international institutions, and ensuring the safe passage of humanitarian aid into the Strip.
The initiative was non-binding but highlighted the overwhelming international support for the Palestinians amid Israel’s military campaign following the October 7 Hamas onslaught.
Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying that it is committed to toppling Hamas to prevent another mass assault.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.