Thousands rally across European capitals in support of Palestinians

Thousands rally across European capitals in support of Palestinians
Mass rallies were held in London and Paris to stand in solidarity with Palestinians on Saturday, with protesters keen on maintaining momentum despite a ceasefire.
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Thousands marched in London [Getty]

Thousands of protesters marched in major European capitals on Saturday in support of Palestinians after an 11-day Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip that left hundreds dead, including dozens of children. 

Demonstrators in London, Paris and other French and English cities flocked to the streets on the weekend to maintain pressure on Israel as its troops continued to impose restrictions on Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah despite a ceasefire agreement.

In London, organisers say an estimated 180,000 showed up to stand in solidarity with Palestinians while 4,000 attended a rally in the French capital.

"A ceasefire does not resolve the question. This fight concerns all those who are attached to the values of justice, dignity and law," said Bertrand Heilbronn, president of the France Palestine Solidarity Association which organised the Paris rally and other demonstrations.

The capital marchers shouted slogans such as "Palestine will live, Palestine will win", "Israel assassin, Macron accomplice", "and We are all Palestinians."

"Even if the bombings have ended, the occupier is still there. The residents of Sheikh Jarrah are still facing the threat of expulsion and the Gaza Strip is blockaded," said Wael, a 28-year-old marcher with a Palestinian flag draped around his shoulders.

Other protests were held in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, northern Lille and Toulouse and Montpellier in the south.

"Palestinians have a right to live in peace and have a state. Israel has deprived us of our rights and of our houses. I am Palestinian but I no longer have the right to go there, my family has lost everything," said Imad Deaibis in Strasbourg.

Thousands are homeless in the impoverished enclave of Gaza where a ceasefire on Friday ended deadly Israeli airstrikes on the besieged territory.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch warned Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza may amount to war crimes and highlights the importance of the role of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC).

“All the ongoing suffering, bloodshed, dispossession, and destruction should finally put to rest the tired notion that the court has no role to play in Palestine,” Balkees Jarrah, associate director at HRW’s International Justice Program, said in a statement.

The ICC opened an investigation into serious crimes committed in the Palestinian territories in March, following a landmark decision by the court’s judges. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is leading an investigation into unlawful Israeli settlements in the West Bank and alleged war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza war 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel considers the Hague-based court as "void of the authority" to begin investigating his country.

Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have for years asked the ICC to investigate Israeli authorities for "crimes against humanity, apartheid and persecution".

"The uncomfortable truth is that the appalling loss of civilian lives is the predictable result of past violations for which virtually no one responsible was held to account. Countries that fail to put a check on this impunity play a role in the dire consequences that flow from it," Jarrah said.

But "without more support from the international community, the probe may be in jeopardy", he added.

At least 246 people, including 65 children, were killed in Gaza since Israel began an airstrike campaign on May 10. An estimated 72,000 people have been displaced, while humanitarian officials say the damage to property and infrastructure could take years to rebuild. Hamas rockets launched from the strip have killed twelve people, including two children, in Israel.

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Israel has spared no efforts to shirk the court’s scrutiny.  Netanyahu has called on his allies to reject the investigation and sent the Minister of Defence to hold talks with his German and French counterparts, claiming Israel can its own inquiry.

"ICC member countries in particular need to ensure that the court’s independence is protected, and that it has sufficient means, cooperation, and political backing to effectively do its vital work on behalf of victims of grave abuses across its docket," Jarrah added.