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Tens of thousands attend largest pro-Palestine march in British history

Organisers say the demonstration in London was attended by 180,000 people, as Gaza ceasefire holds for second day
Pro-Palestine demonstrators marched through the streets of London, passing Parliament and Downing Street (Reuters)

Holding Palestinian flags and placards in the pouring rain, tens of thousands of people on Saturday descended on the streets of central London to protest against Israeli attacks in Gaza and the rest of historic Palestine. 

Gathering on London's Embankment, protesters marched past the parliament buildings and through Oxford Street as they chanted "Free Palestine" and demanded an end to Israel's occupation. 

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Some protesters lit flares showing the colours of the Palestinian flag as they gathered in the capital's iconic Trafalgar Square, chanting "Palestine will be free". 

Organisers, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Al-Aqsa, estimated that at least 180,000 people attended the London demonstration, making it the largest pro-Palestine protest in British history. 

Protests also took place in other UK cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Peterborough and Nottingham, as calls mounted for Britain to impose sanctions on Israel for its actions.

Speeches were made by trade union members, Labour MPs and anti-war campaigners at the rally.

The protests came a day after Hamas and Israel agreed to a ceasefire that saw an end to Israel's daily bombardment of Gaza that killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, since the 10 May.

Addressing protesters from a stage in Hyde Park, former Labour shadow chancellor John 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.”

Ceasefire holds

Despite the ceasefire, Israeli forces stormed al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday after prayers ended in the afternoon, when hundreds of Palestinians had gathered to celebrate the ceasefire. 

Israeli forces continue to bar Palestinian protesters from entering the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem, where residents face possible expulsion from their homes.

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However, pro-Israeli protesters continue to be let into the Sheikh Jarrah area, according to human rights observers. 

The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held in Gaza on Saturday as humanitarian aid began to enter the besieged enclave and as thousands of displaced Palestinians returned to their homes. 

Convoys of lorries carrying aid began passing into Gaza through the Karem Abu Salem crossing after it was reopened by Israel, bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel. 

The UN's Central Emergency Response Fund said it had released $18.5m for humanitarian efforts.