London united as ‘Free Palestine Protest’ is attended by almost 200,000 supporters

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Thousands of people gathered in central London in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Organisers estimated that more than 180,000 joined the protest on Saturday, and that it could be one of the largest pro-Palestine demonstrations in British history. The protest went ahead despite the announcement of a ceasefire on Friday morning after an 11-day Israeli bombing campaign, with organisers saying they wanted to demand that the UK government implement sanctions on Israel

The latest violence followed a month of rising tensions in Jerusalem. But the fighting has gone on for decades. It was the worst violence since 2014 and saw Hamas fire a barrage of rockets into Israeli towns, while Israeli airstrikes targeted Hamas’ infrastructure – including a vast tunnel network – and violence broke out between residents of Israeli towns.

In London, demonstrators congregated at Victoria Embankment on Saturday afternoon before making their way to Hyde Park.

Holding banners, placards and flags, they let off green and red-coloured smoke and chanted, blocking traffic as they marched. Groups of police watched as some protesters climbed bus stops and lampposts and wrote “Free Palestine” on walls. Chants of “Israel is a terrorist state” and “We are all Palestinians” could be heard during the march.

As the crowd reached Downing Street, chants of “Boris Johnson, shame on you” rang out.

A temporary stage was set up in Hyde Park where a number of speeches, including from former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, were made during the afternoon.

Mr Corbyn spoke at the end of the event, after speeches from former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and rapper Lowkey.

Children should not grow up having seen their home demolished by a bomb dropped from the safety of thousands of feet above,” the Labour MP said.

The occupation is the issue, the occupation of the West Bank, the siege of Gaza, they are the issues.

While the ceasefire is a step forward, unless the fundamental issues are addressed, we will be here again.”

Mr Corbyn added: “We will be here as long as is it takes until the Palestinian people are free.

We will never give up on the Palestinian people, we will never go away from the Palestinian people and their cause.

He was welcomed to the stage to large applause and chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”.

Mr McDonnell said: “Yes, a ceasefire has been negotiated and we welcome a ceasefire.

“But let’s be clear, there will be no ceasefire in our campaign to boycott, disinvest and sanction the Israeli apartheid state.

“The message is clear, we will not cease our campaign in solidarity until there is justice.

So let’s make it clear, no justice, no peace.

Where does the conflict stem from?

In the past 50 years Israel has built settlements in these areas, where more than 600,000 Jews now live.

Palestinians say these are illegal under international law and are obstacles to peace, but Israel denies this.

Tensions are often high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

Gaza is ruled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Israel and Egypt tightly control Gaza’s borders to stop weapons getting to Hamas.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank say they’re suffering because of Israeli actions and restrictions. Israel say it is only acting to protect itself from Palestinian violence.

Things have escalated since the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in mid-April 2021, with nightly clashes between police and Palestinians. The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused rising anger. There are a number of issues which Israel and the Palestinians cannot agree on.

These include what should happen to Palestinian refugees, whether Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank should stay or be removed, whether the two sides should share Jerusalem, and – perhaps most tricky of all – whether a Palestinian state should be created alongside Israel.

Peace talks have been taking place on and off for more than 25 years, but so far have not solved the conflict.

In short, the situation isn’t going to be sorted out any time soon.

The most recent peace plan, prepared by the United States, when Donald Trump was President – called “the deal of the century” by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu – has been dismissed by the Palestinians as one-sided and never got off the ground.

Any future peace deal will need both sides to agree to resolve complex issues.

Pray for Palestine

Sammi xx

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