Palestine supporters call for 'intifada' in huge march in central London attended by tens of thousands

28 October 2023, 13:29 | Updated: 28 October 2023, 15:32

Palestine supporters protesting again in central London
Palestine supporters protesting again in central London. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Palestine supporters have called for an "intifada" at a march in central London attended by tens of thousands of people.

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The march to Parliament Square through the city centre came as Israel launched an expanded military operation in Gaza, with heavy bombardment and troops inside the territory as they seek to root out the Hamas terrorists who killed 1,400 people and took more than 200 hostage.

Protesters have been holding Palestinian flags and banners, and chanted "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", a controversial slogan that some say is anti-Semitic because it suggests that Israel should not exist.

One group were filmed chanting: "From London to Gaza, we'll have an intifada".

Intifada means 'shaking off' or 'uprising' in Arabic. It has a specific Palestinian context: the first Intifada against the Israelis lasted from 1987-1993, and the second lasted from 2000-2005. Thousands died on both sides.

Protesters display a large Palestinian flag as they walk over Westminster Bridge
Protesters display a large Palestinian flag as they walk over Westminster Bridge. Picture: Getty

Elsewhere at the a march was knocked over by a police horse, which was startled by fireworks set off by fellow protesters. Several horses bolted on hearing the loud bangs.

She was pushed to the floor and trampled on but appeared to be fine when helped back up.

Read more: 'Total chaos': Devastation in Gaza amid huge Israeli bombardment, as troops fighting Hamas remain inside strip

Read more: 'The most terrible of nights': Families of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas voice fear amid IDF bombardment of Gaza

Several senior politicians have called for a ceasefire in recent days as civilian casualties mount, although this is not the position of the government or the Labour opposition.

But Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have called for pauses in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians, but have stopped short of pushing for an end to hostilities.

The UK's position is that Israel has a right to defend itself within international law following the atrocities of October 7. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Saturday that there is no sign that Hamas wants or would stick to a ceasefire.

The marches come amid concerns that a legal right to protest Israel's actions has sometimes shaded into anti-Semitism, against a backdrop of increased hate crimes against Jews.

Protesters on the march
Protesters on the march. Picture: Getty

Last week's march caused controversy when a protester called for jihad but was not arrested. The police said they didn't take the man into custody because jihad can have several meanings, not all of them violent.

The weekend before saw a man carrying an Israeli flag chased by angry protesters.

Counter-intelligence officers have warned this week that they fear that Iran, which backs Hamas, may be trying to infiltrate the protests to heighten tensions in the UK, the Times reported.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned protesters on Saturday that Iran may be trying to sow discord among them.

Pro-Palestine supporters
Pro-Palestine supporters. Picture: Getty

"It is perfectly possible to support the Palestinian people but also to condemn Hamas," he said.

"But, sadly, we do see people being manipulated, subject to disinformation, distortion, and sadly I do think a minority - a small minority - within those protests have got very much more negative aims.

"I would say to everyone involved in the protests, be conscious of this, be conscious about disinformation and manipulation."

Police said that large crowds gathered around the Embankment, Westminster and Waterloo Bridges, Strand, Whitehall and nearby roads.

"More than 1,000 officers will be on duty, with many more working in communities across the city," they added.

Other smaller pro-Palestine protests are also taking place in towns and cities around the UK.

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