Thousands of protesters have marched through Hyde Park in solidarity with the people of Palestine amid the ongoing conflict with Israel.
Organisers say ‘immediate action’ is needed by the UK Government to help end the ‘brutal’ violence against the Palestinian people.
Huge crowds of demonstrators gathered outside the gates of the Israeli embassy and were addressed by multiple speakers at midday.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the crowds international action provides ‘succour, comfort and support’ to those suffering in the conflict. Crowds chanted ‘oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ and threw roses as he took to the stage.
Other speakers outside the Israeli embassy were Labour MP Zarah Sultana and rapper Lowkey. The names and ages of the children killed in the conflict were read out, followed by a minute’s silence.
People were told to move further down the road as a matter of crowd safety, and there were cheers as organisers told them the turnout was ‘the biggest pro-Palestine demonstration since 2014’.
Organisers said demonstrator numbers were estimated at 150,000. Coloured smoke was set off along Kensington High Street and some demonstrators climbed on to buildings and bus stops.
Organisers have urged people to keep moving down the road as numbers continued to swell and dozens of police officers line nearby streets. It comes as thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee from their homes after a week of sustained conflict.
Since Monday night, Palestinian militant group Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, whose military responded by barraging the Gaza Strip with tank fire and air strikes.
At least 126 people have been killed in Gaza, including 31 children and 20 women. In Israel seven people have been killed, including a six-year-old boy and a soldier.
Demonstrators walk through Hyde Park as they make their way to the Israeli embassy in London, during a march in solidarity with the people of Palestine amid the ongoing conflict with Israel
Protesters at a rally to express solidarity with Palestine at Marble Arch on May 15 in London after several Israeli cities experienced clashes between Jewish and Arab mobs in recent days
Smoke billows after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City targeted the Ansar compound on Saturday
Among those expected to address the crowds are former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Zarah Sultana. It comes as thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee from their homes after a week of sustained conflict
Mr Corbyn added: ‘Think what it’s like being a mother or father and seeing a building bombed in front of you, knowing your family is in there, and you can do nothing,’ said Mr Corbyn.
‘It’s our global voices that will give succour, comfort and support in those settlements alongside Gaza and all over the West Bank, East Jerusalem who are suffering at this time.
‘End the occupation now. End all the settlements now and withdraw then. End the siege of Gaza now.’
Husam Zumlot, Palestinian ambassador to the UK, told crowds: ‘This time is different. This time we will not be denied any more. We are united. We have had enough of oppression. Today we are saying enough, enough with the complicity. Thank you for standing with us.’
The crowd stretched back to Bayswater Road from Kensington High Street.
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told crowds they were part of a ‘worldwide movement for justice’.
‘We must remember we are part of an international movement,’ she said. ‘This is a worldwide movement for justice. Palestinian people are having their land seized… and they are now being killed in their homes. All of this is illegal.’
Thousands of people attend an emergency rally in solidarity with the Palestinian people in London
Demonstrators gathered near Marble Arch before marching through Hyde Park to the Israeli embassy
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators attend a protest in London following a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) told the crowds international action provides ‘succour, comfort and support’ to those suffering in the conflict. Crowds chanted ‘oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ and threw roses as he took to the stage
Crowds brought placards out with them. Signs read ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and ‘Stop bombing Gaza’
Organisers claimed around 150,000 descended on central London for the solidarity march on Saturday
Protesters stood above the entrance to Marble Arch underground station near Hyde Park
Earlier in the afternoon, demonstrators marched from Marble Arch Station to the Israeli embassy, holding banners and chanting.
The Metropolitan Police said: ‘Officers are engaging with a group of people who have gathered for a demonstration in central London this afternoon.
‘A policing plan is in place to ensure everybody is kept safe and to reduce the spread of Covid-19.’
It comes amid reports an Israeli air strike destroyed a high-rise building that housed the AP, Al-Jazeera and other media in the Gaza Strip.
The AP said the air strike came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building.
The news agency said there was no immediate explanation as to why the building was targeted.
The demonstration in London was organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Stop The War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Muslim Association of Britain.
A spokesperson for the organisers said: ‘It is vital that the UK Government takes immediate action. It must stop allowing Israel’s brutal violence against and oppression of the Palestinian people to go unpunished.
‘The bombardment of Gaza which is killing civilians including children is a war crime. The UK Government is complicit in these acts as long as it continues to offer Israel military, diplomatic and financial support.’
It comes after a week of rising tensions, when Israel on Thursday pressed ahead with a fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip, killing as many as 11 senior Hamas military figures and toppling a pair of high-rise towers housing Hamas facilities in a series of airstrikes.
The Islamic militant group showed no signs of backing down and fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities, including heavily populated Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Palestinian militants have stockpiled enough missiles to continue bombing Israel for the next two months, security experts have warned, as escalating fighting led the UN to warn of ‘all-out war’.
A protester wears a mask with the Palestinian flag painted on it as demonstrators marched through Hyde Park
Flares were set off as the march continued through Hyde Park en route to the Israeli embassy
Meanwhile, street clashes continued on Israel’s streets across the country, with Jewish and Arab citizens both attacking one-another in numerous incidents, leading to over 370 arrests across the country.
The conflict sparked hundreds of demonstrators across the US Wednesday. In Downtown Chicago, a rally organized by the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine, drew a crowd of nearly 1,000 protestors who said Palestinians were being mistreated. One woman held sign that said: ‘Free Palestine!’
In New York, protesters clashed in Times Square, with both sides screaming at each other and separated by barricades. Pro-Israel supporters could be seen draped in flags.
In Cleveland, an Israel supporter asked people not to forget the people suffering in that country, even though he said Palestinians are made out to be the victims.
And in Los Angeles, pro-Israel demonstrators gathered in front of the city’s federal building; the prior day in the city there had been skirmishes between the factions, but photos from the scene showed only Israel supporters waving American and Israel flags.
Protesters held white roses and draped themselves in the Palestinian flag as they marched on Saturday
Hundreds of people joined the protest as demonstrators marched in solidarity with the Palestinian people
Demonstrators started gathering outside Marble Arch Station at midday for the march on Saturday
Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were also held today in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris, where riot police got ready as organizers said they would defy a ban on the protest.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement ordered shops closed around the starting point of the planned march in a working-class neighbourhood in northern Paris after an administrative court confirmed the ban.
Authorities noted a banned July 2014 pro-Palestinian protest against an Israeli offensive in Gaza that degenerated into violence and running battles with police to justify the order against Saturday’s march.
Pictured: Israeli boy, five, killed by Hamas rocket shrapnel
A five-year-old boy killed in Israel by rocket fire from Gaza has been pictured, after he became one of the country’s seven victims of the latest cross-border conflict.
Ido Avigal was fatally stuck by shrapnel after the building he was in with his mother was hit by a missile on Wednesday night.
In the building, found in the town of Sderot on the border with Gaza, seven people were hurt when it suffered a direct hit from a rocket.
Ido Avigal, who was killed in his home in Sderot by a rocket fired from Gaza on May 12, 2021. Avigal was pronounced dead several hours later, becoming the seventh Israeli victim of the cross border conflict that started earlier this week
The boy’s mother grabbed him and took him into a fortified room when the in-coming rocket sirens sounded, according to local Hebrew media reports cited by the Times of Israel.
However, in a rare tragedy, shrapnel from the rocket punctured the shelter’s window, critically wounding the boy and also injuring his mother.
Avigal was pronounced dead several hours later, becoming the seventh Israeli victim of the cross border conflict that started earlier this week.
Organizers said they intend to ‘denounce the latest Israeli aggressions’ and mark the fleeing of Palestinians after Israel declared independence in 1948.
In Israel heightened tensions led to street brawls in areas populated by Jews and Arabs, with an Arab man dragged from his car and beaten by Jewish ultranationalists in one attack, while in another a Jewish citizen was attacked by sticks and stones by Arab Israeli protesters.
At least 122 people have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave’s health ministry. Eight people have been killed in Israel, medical officials said.
One of the Israelis – a five-year-old boy named Ido Avigal – was killed by shrapnel on Wednesday night in the Gaza border town of Sderot when rockets struck the building he was living in with his mother.
Britain’s Boris Johnson led international leaders in calling for the two sides to step back from the brink, but a UN Security Council meeting failed to agree on a joint statement due to opposition from the United States, Israel’s key ally, diplomats said.
Pleas for calm appeared in vain as Israeli and Palestinian leaders traded blood-curdling threats and further rocket strikes, with a rocket setting off alarms in the north of Israel in the early hours of Thursday morning – some 62 miles North of Gaza – sending thousands of Israelis to shelters.
And after a senior Hamas commander was killed Wednesday, the Islamist militant group responded with a barrage of rockets into southern Israel which rescue workers said killed a six-year-old boy.
Israel’s defence minister Benny Gantz vowed more attacks on Gaza to bring ‘total, long-term quiet’ before they would consider truce talks after six days of violence. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his military would only use ‘increasing force’ in the conflict.
‘We eliminated senior Hamas commanders and this is just the beginning,’ he said. ‘We will inflict blows on them that they couldn’t even dream of.’ The leader of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh hit back, vowing that ‘if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it’.
Six high-ranking commanders and a further five key Hamas figures were ‘neutralised’ on Wednesday, including Brigadier General Bassem Issa and Jamal Zabda, head of the group’s rocket unit, according to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
On Tuesday, Mr Johnson tweeted a plea for both sides to ‘step back from the brink’ and ‘show restraint’. He added: ‘The UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties and we want to see an urgent de-escalation of tensions.’
His calls were backed up by similar messages from the EU, the US, Russia and Turkey.
The UN’s Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland warned the latest violence was ‘escalating towards a full-scale war’. And UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he was ‘gravely concerned’ by the ongoing troubles.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired more than 1,000 missiles in the first 48 hours of the conflict which began on Monday, an average of one every three minutes, and has enough to keep the bombardment going for two months.
Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said: ‘According to our estimates we’re talking about between 20,000 and 30,000 rockets in Gaza today, rockets and mortars.
‘We’ve seen a constant expansion in terms of range and also in terms of the size of the warheads. They have an advanced arsenal of rockets, I think it’s on a par with the fire capabilities of a few small European countries.’
Six high-ranking commanders and a further five key Hamas figures were ‘neutralised’ on Wednesday, including Brigadier General Bassem Issa and Jamal Zabda, head of the group’s rocket unit, according to the Israeli Defence Force (IDF)
While Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defence system has intercepted nine out of ten Palestinian rockets, the remainder have killed at least six civilians and injured more than 90. Families in Tel Aviv have taken cover in underground shelters.
Israel’s retaliation has included hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, led by F-35 stealth bombers and Apache attack helicopters, which are understood to have killed 32 and wounded more than 300. Israel says most of the dead were terrorists and insists the children killed were victims of stray Palestinian rockets.
The UN security council met Tuesday to discuss the crisis. The heaviest offensive between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in the Hamas-ruled enclave has increased international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.
‘Israel has gone crazy,’ said a man on a Gaza street, where people ran out of their homes as explosions rocked buildings.
Israel’s army last week said it had received a rocket warning in the north of the country, the first time the alert has been given there since hostilities soared between Israel and Palestinians earlier this week.
The approximately 1,500 rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas militants since Monday had so far set off warnings in southern and central Israel, but not in the north, the army said.
However in the small hours of the morning of May 6, alarms not only sounded in the economic capital Tel Aviv in the middle of the country – where residents rushed to shelters – but also in Jezreel Valley in the north.
There was no immediate word of a rocket strike or casualties in Nahalal, some 100 km (62 miles) from Gaza.