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Outrage as grinning activists seen tearing down posters of Israeli hostages in Leicester Square
25 October 2023, 06:53 | Updated: 25 October 2023, 15:40
Shocking footage has shown smiling people ripping down posters in central London showing Israelis who have been kidnapped by Hamas.
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Around 200 people were taken hostage by Hamas after their attack on Israel on October 7 that left around 1,400 people dead.
Many of the hostages are elderly, or children, and some are known to be peace activists who volunteered for a charity that brings sick Palestinians to Israel for medical treatment.
Activists who are pushing for the hostages to be released from captivity and brought home have been putting up posters of them around the world.
Two women and two men were seen tearing down posters put up in Leicester Square, in the West End in central London, on Tuesday night.
A man filming them asks "You don't love human life?"
One of the women replies: "I do love humans."
One of the men tearing the posters down can be seen grinning as he walks off.
Speaking to an LBC reporter, one commuter in Leicester Square branded the act "atrocious" and called for the police to take action.
"It's horrendous, you have people out there suffering and you've got ar****les out there tearing things down, it's atrocious," she said.
Police later said that they had seen the footage and had not identified a criminal offence.
Sadiq Khan said the behaviour is "completely unacceptable"
“The Mayor thinks this behaviour is completely unacceptable. The horror the hostages and their families are going through is truly unimaginable," a spokesperson for the Mayor of London said.
“Our capital is the most diverse city in the world and the Mayor continues to urge Londoners to stand together in the coming days and weeks.
"Some people will try to exploit the situation in the Middle East to sow the seeds of division here, and we cannot let them.”
People reacted with disgust to the footage. One said: "I can't fathom tearing down the missing posters of the victims of terror attacks. It's a hateful, antisemitic act. I feel horrible for innocent people in Palestine but this doesn't help them either."
Another added: "Regardless what your stance is, I can’t fathom why people would destroy signs for missing, innocent people."
A third said: "The saddest part is they are ordinary people, they are the young person in your office, they are the person on the train and they ripping posters down of hostages."
The Met said in a statement: "On Wednesday, 25 October, police were made aware of a video that was circulating on social media.
"The video, which was posted shortly after 22:00hrs, showed members of the public tearing down posters on Leicester Square, WC2.
"Officers will continue to be in the area carrying out reassurance patrols. At this time, no offences have been identified."
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch later criticised "odious people ripping down posters of missing children", adding that the UK's social contract had been "breached".
She told the Commons: "All our citizens have a right to feel secure and at peace in Britain. One of the reasons why we have been able to integrate people from all over the world is because of an unwritten rule that people with roots elsewhere do not play out foreign conflicts on the streets of this country.
"We owe a duty of care and civility to our neighbours whatever their ethnicity, religion or background. All of us are free to practice our faiths and celebrate our cultures but we must do so in a positive way, consistent with fundamental values that are the bedrock of Britain. I'm afraid to say that in recent days we have seen that social contract being breached.
"In particular, I believe that the hostility directed towards our Jewish communities, the calls for Jihad, the ostentatious indifference to the victims of terrorism, the aggressive chanting by mobs brandishing placards of hate, and the odious people ripping down posters of missing children, do not reflect our values as a nation.
"We must all stand firm on the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, particularly in the public space that we all share."
This is not the first time that people who are apparently Palestine supporters have been seen tearing down posters of kidnapped Israelis.
A British-Israeli woman was putting up posters around north London with her mother earlier this month when two women started tearing them down.
Neta Fibeesh said she received verbal abuse from several members of the public while putting the flyers up.
Two women came over to Ms Fibeesh and started "aggressively tearing off the flyers", she said.
In a clip shared on social media, one onlooker could be heard saying: "Why don't you do something for Palestine?"
One of the women replied: "This is for Palestine!"
Ms Fibeesh could be heard saying the issues are "not mutually exclusive", explaining: "It's children, it's innocent people."
"How about the children in Palestine?" one of the women shouted back.