Thousands rally across Europe to back Palestinians

LONDON (AFP) – Tens of thousands of protesters marched in support of Palestinians on Saturday in major European cities including London, Berlin, Madrid and Paris, as the worst violence in years raged between Israel and militants in Gaza.

In London, several thousand protesters carrying placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanting “Free Palestine” converged on Marble Arch, near the British capital’s Hyde Park, to march towards the Israeli embassy.

Packed crowds stretched all along Kensington High Street where the embassy is located.

Organisers claimed as many as 150,000 people had gathered for the London march, one of several across Britain, though London police said they were unable to confirm any figure.

“The group is spread across a large area which makes it impossible to count them,” a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.

A French riot gendarme runs toward protesters during a demonstration in Paris. PHOTO: AFP

“This time is different,” Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot told the demonstrators.

“This time we will not be denied any more. We are united. We have had enough of oppression.”

Simon Makepace, a 61-year-old accountant told AFP he had joined the protests because “the whole world should be doing something about it, including this country”.

He was critical of the United States (US), which he said was unfairly backing Israel, and urged Washington to “make peace and stop what’s happening”.

Azadeh Pyman, a 50-year-old scientist said she had been raised on the Palestinian cause by her parents and grandparents.

“I think it’s the cause that will go from one generation to another generation, until Palestine is free,” she said.

Later Saturday, two Leicester players, England’s Hamza Choudhury and France’s Wesley Fofana, held a Palestinian flag after their team won the FA Cup final.

Across North America, in turn, gatherings to show solidarity with Palestinians took place in cities including Boston, Washington, Montreal and Dearborn, Michigan.