11 Jan 2009

Thousands attend anti-Israeli protests worldwide

4:12 pm on 11 January 2009

Protests against Israel's ongoing offensive in the Gaza Strip are spreading around the world, with thousands of people attending rallies at the weekend.

Israel has pressed on with a punishing Gaza offensive and Hamas sent more rocket salvoes into southern Israeli towns, as the battle entered a third week in defiance of a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution.

Medical staff in Gaza say more than 850 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's two-week assault, including 235 children, since the attacks began on 27 December. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, most of them troops.

In New Zealand, more than 500 protesters gathered outside the US consulate in Auckland and chanted: "How many kids have you killed today Israel USA".

Protesters were clothed in Palestinian flags and held placards of dead and mutilated children. Demonstrators threw shoes, a sign of Muslim disgust, at the consulate building before burning an Israeli flag in a central city square.

Protest organiser John Minto said the New Zealand Government should condemn Israel's actions.

Ed Brownlee, from the organisation Kiwi Friends of Israel, said it is unfortunate that protesters have chanted slogans supporting the intifada. He said it was akin to supporting terrorism.

In Australia, protesters called for the federal government to end its support for Israel in the current conflict.

Protesters gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Canberra on Saturday carrying signs that read: "Enough is enough, Free Gaza Now" and "Israel, enough with the victim act".

About 800 paper plates were laid out on the ground adjacent to the Israel embassy, representing those killed so far in the conflict.

Violent protests in Europe

In Britain, police clashed with anti-war demonstrators near the Israeli embassy in London.

Officers in riot gear and others on horseback confronted a group of several hundred protesters who threw stones and smashed windows.

Police said up to 20,000 people marched through central London to protest against the Israeli action in Gaza.

Protests also took place in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Belfast, Newcastle and Southampton.

Similar demonstrations have been held in Europe.

In France, about 30,000 took to the streets of Paris, many demonstrators wearing Palestinian keffiyah headscarves and chanting "we are all Palestinians", "Israel murderer" and "peace". Some threw stones at police and burnt Israeli flags.

Danish police said they arrested 75 people at a demonstration in Copenhagen after activists smashed car windows and attacked a McDonalds outlet, while in Norway police used tear gas on protesters in Oslo.

More than 40,000 people protested in towns across Germany, while demonstrators at the Israeli embassy in Dublin threw shoes and carried a mock coffin, covered with pictures of wounded or dead Palestinian children.

In the United States, several thousand demonstrators gathered in a park opposite the White House in Washington to protest the Bush administration's backing for Israel.

"Free Palestine. Let Gaza live!" they chanted as they marched. Some banners called on president-elect Barack Obama to change American policy.

Protests were also held throughout the Arab world.

Thousands of Lebanese Shi'ites who turned out for the Muslim Ashura festival in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh also protested against the Israeli offensive, carrying Hezbollah and Palestinian flags.

"We tell the people of Gaza and the elderly in Gaza and the heroes of the resistance, you are not alone, we are with you ...

victory is yours, God willing," Mohammed Raad, a senior Hezbollah official, told the crowd.