Tuesday, December 30, 2008

AFP - Protesters worldwide keep up pressure over Gaza

PARIS (AFP) — Protesters denouncing Israel's deadly bombardment of the Gaza Strip returned to the streets in demonstrations around the world to keep up the pressure for an end to the violence.

As Israel, under increasing diplomatic pressure, mulled a proposed 48-hour truce and the death toll from its onslaught rose to at least 373 Palestinians, the protesters made their voices heard again.

In France, more than 7,000 protesters marched in a dozen cities across the country to denounce the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip , which continued for the fourth day running Tuesday.

In Paris, around 3,500 people according to police -- 5,000 according to the organisers -- marched towards the French foreign ministry on the Quai D'Orsay by the River Seine, shouting slogans and carrying banners denouncing Israel.

Police said another 700 marched in the western city of Nantes, while demonstrations in at least a dozen cities and towns across the country each attracted hundreds of protesters.

In London, between 200 and 300 demonstrators protested peacefully outside the Israeli embassy, after the two previous days' rallies had descended into violence.

This demonstration was smaller than on Sunday and Monday, when scuffles erupted between police and protestors against Israel's air raids, leading to a total of 17 arrests over the two days.

Iranian demonstrators stormed the British diplomatic compound in Tehran Tuesday evening to protest London's stance towards the Israeli onslaught, state news agency IRNA reported.

"A large group of people and students entered the Gholhak gardens, which are occupied by the British embassy to protest at Britain's policies in supporting the Zionist regime and put up the Palestinian flag there," IRNA said.

A media officer at the British embassy in Tehran confirmed the report.

In Washington, between 2,500 and 5,000 people protested outside the US State Department chanting slogans like "Stop the Killing, Stop the War, Stop the Genocide of Palestinians" and with some carrying banners saying "Stop US Aid to Israel".

In Los Angeles, around 500 protestors and pro-Israel activists faced off peacefully near the Israeli Consulate.

At a separate demonstration attended by around 100 protesters in Westwood, actor Mike Farrell, a star of the hit 1970s television series "MASH", said he was "one of those people horrified by Israel's over-response."

"Not that I'm in favor of Hamas by any means, because firing rockets into Israel is not the way these things get resolved in a productive way," he said.

In Tunis, hundreds of lawyers and trade unionists joined opposition activists to defy a police ban and protest the bombing of Gaza, several sources reported.

As some protesters shouted slogans denouncing the lack of response from Arab countries in general and Egypt in particular, police headed off the demonstration as it headed towards the courthouse, said witnesses.

Tunisia's government has already condemned the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia's interior ministry denied a report by Shiite news website Rasid.com that hundreds had demonstrated Monday afternoon in heavily Shiite Al Qatif, just west of Dammam, leading to several arrests.

Shiite news website Rasid.com reported that police had fired rubber bullets to break up the demonstrations Monday afternoon, which were attended by hundreds of people. But an interior ministry spokesman told AFP there had been no such demonstration.

Demonstrators in the Yemeni port city of Aden briefly broke into the Egyptian consulate to protest Cairo's response to the Israeli offensive, a security official said.

The protesters, mostly students from the university of Aden, "vandalised furniture before they were removed peacefully from the building," the official said, asking not to be identified.

Egypt has come in for strong criticism from Islamists and their sympathisers around the Muslim world for not fully opening its border with Gaza in the face of Israel's devastating air blitz.

In Algeria, about 100 people staged a protest in the capital Algiers after a call from politicians and editors of writers' and artists' magazines. They observed a minute's silence in memory of the dead.

In Panama City, around 200 people protested outside the Israeli embassy to condemn Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip.

In the Bulgarian capital Sofia, about 200 protesters called on the Bulgarian government to support the peace efforts. Demonstrators carried pro-Palestinian banners and others denouncing Israel.

Earlier Tuesday, about 200 people carrying flowers and candles offered a one-minute prayer in front of the Israeli embassy, with a Buddhist monk ringing a bell for the souls of the victims.

"This is nothing but a bloodbath," organiser Hiroshi Taniyama told demonstrators, who included Arabs living in Japan.


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