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London: Tens of thousands protest in solidarity with Palestine

Protesters, sharing anger shown around the world, speak out against violence in Gaza and demand justice for those killed in air strikes
Tens of thousands marched in London on denouncing attacks on Palestinians on 15 May 2021 (MEE)

As tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London to protest over the recent week of assaults on Palestinians and air strikes in Gaza, a common theme could be seen among the slogans and placards: "The Nakba never ended for Palestinians".

People marched from Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner, making their way to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington.

Shouting slogans, the protesters denounced the Israeli army's recent attacks on people in the West Bank and Gaza and the imminent eviction of a number of families in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, something many Palestinians have cited as a continuation of the Nakbah, or "catastrophe" that originally created the state of Israel.

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Middle East Eye's correspondent on the ground described thousands of people holding placards emblazoned with "Stop bombing Gaza" and "Free Palestine," while police patrolled in the area and helicopters flew overhead.

In some streets, protesters took part in traditional Palestinian folk dancing, known as Dabke

Warsan Hassan, 20, said that she came to the protest to demand a stop to the atrocities being committed against Palestinians.

"We are encouraging the UK to take action on the ethnic cleansing taking place and a genocide... it's illegal occupation of land and goes against UN resolutions," she said. 

"If you're human you should be at protests like this. If you're silent, you're complicit," she added.

Many were also chanting, calling for the British government to impose sanctions on Israel.

palestine protests
Protesters come out in support of Palestinians in Gaza who have suffered under Israeli bombardment (AFP)

Speaking to MEE, a number of protesters expressed their anger at the injustice many Palestinians have faced, and called on governments to take action on the escalating situation on the ground. 

"Today we are here to protest the atrocities that are taking place in Palestine by the Israeli government and the terrorism that is being comitted," one protester said. 

"We want them to stop illegally evicting people from places like Sheikh Jarrah and stop terrorising Palestinians at al-Aqsa, where people are just trying to worship," the protester added, referring to the important mosque in Jerusalem that was an early focus of the recent violence.

"We're watching a massacre and no one is doing anything... it's awful," another protester said

At least 139 people have been killed in Gaza since Monday, and over 10 in the West Bank.

On the streets of London many protesters described feeling angry at the events that have unfolded this week.

"It's disgusting. The Nakba has never ended since 1948, the people of Palestine are suffering from settler colonialism and displacement... and we're calling on the British government and the Israeli government and the international community including the United Nations and International Criminal Court to bring an end to the occupation," one told Middle East Eye.

"Allow Palestinians to return to their lands, they are the rightful owners of their lands," another said. 

Mohammed Aziz, a Palestinian based in London, said he wanted to show his support for the people on the ground in Palestine.

"We want them to know that they are not alone, and demand that our prime minister, who the prime minister of Israel called his friend, stops arms deals with Israel and stops forcing Palestinians out of their homes and killing hundreds of Palestinians.

"There's no two sides, this is not a conflict. We want justice. This is apartheid and settler colonialism," Aziz added. 

One of the organisers of the protest, from UK based organisation Friends of Al Aqsa, said he was not surprised by the turnout of people.

"In the space of seven days, we had over 150,000 people contact their MPs over what's happening in Sheikh Jarrah and al-Aqsa. This is unprecedented," he said. 

The mass protest comes on the anniversary of the Nakba, or the Catastrophe, in 1948, when more than 800,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes to make way for the creation of the state of Israel.

This week, protests in solidarity with Palestine have taken place around the world, including in New Zealand, Italy, Iraq, Germany, Syria. Meanwhile, in France, planned protests were banned. 

Earlier this afternoon, Israel bombed a 12-storey building in Gaza used by a number of news outlets including Middle East Eye, Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press.

The bombing of the building came after Israel gave people a one-hour ultimatum to leave, with many people being forced to leave behind their belongings and equipment. 

MEE's Mohammed Hajjar, a photojournalist for MEE, was among those who left the building.

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