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Leicester duo raise Palestinian flag after cup win

Leicester City football players Hamza Choudhury and Wesley Fofana have been praised for their solidarity
The players have stood in solidarity with Palestinians (Screengrab/Twitter)

Leicester City football players Hamza Choudhury and Wesley Fofana celebrated their FA Cup final victory over Chelsea by waving the Palestinian flag after the final whistle on Saturday evening.

The move was a show of solidarity with Palestinians who have faced intense bombardment, air strikes and persecution from Israeli forces in recent days, causing the death of over 140 people.

Palestinians have come out in protests across many cities in recent days, sparked by an Israeli court's decision to evict a number of families living in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Online, social media users and fans have praised the football players for their act of solidarity and amplifying the voices of Palestinians.

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Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, penned a letter to Leicester City Football Club, addressed to Choudhury and Fofana thanking them for their support. 

"Allow me, on behalf of the Palestinian government and people, to extend our profoundest gratitude that, in your moment of FA Cup triumph, Hamza Choudhury and Wesley Fofana used the historic occasion to show solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people," the letter read. 

"For a people beleaguered, occupied and under intense bombardment for daring to stand up for their rights, your gesture could not be more timely and appreciated," it added.

Earlier in the day, tens of thousands of demonstrators in London took to the streets to protest against Israeli aggression and the targeting of protesters in the West Bank using rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas.

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.

The football game and the protests in London come 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.

Over the past week, Israeli forces have led a campaign of attacks on Palestinian protesters, including the storming of the highy revered al-Aqsa Mosque, where skunk water was sprayed at worshippers and sound grenades thrown. 

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

Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich donated more than $100m to a far-right Israeli organisation that has been accused of displacing Palestinian families from Jerusalem, bank documents claim.

The documents were part of a 22,000-page cache of reports sent to US authorities by banks between 2000 and 2017 that were leaked to Buzzfeed news. They show that over the last 15 years, four companies run by Abramovich donated $100m to Elad, a right-wing Israeli settler organisation dedicated to "strengthening Israel's current and historic connection to Jerusalem".

The organisation has been responsible for scores of Palestinian evictions and has in some cases fought several expensive, decades-long legal battles to do so, particularly in Silwan, a town annexed by Israel in 1967 that houses some 55,000 Palestinians. 

Abramovich, who became an Israeli citizen in 2018, has a fortune estimated to be between $12bn and $13bn, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and in recent years has purchased several luxury properties in Israel.

Palestinian land has regularly been confiscated by the Israeli government to create national parks, with the backing of groups like Elad. 

The City of David National Park, funded and managed by Elad, includes the densely populated Palestinian neighbourhood of Wadi Hilweh, home to over 4,000 Palestinians that have been barred from doing any construction or renovations on their homes or properties without a building permit, which due to the national park categorisation, are systematically denied. 

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