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Europe

Gaza Conflict Prompts Global Demonstrations

Cities around the world were braced Sunday for fresh rallies both in support of and in opposition to Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip as the bombing campaign entered its third week.

Palestinian supporters protest against the ongoing attacks by Israel in Gaza during a protest march in Berlin

Cities across the world have seen an increase in protests as the conflict continues

More than 1,000 students and ethnic minorities took to the streets of Hong Kong in a protest organized on social networking website Facebook.

The group, holding placards and banners, marched from Victoria Park to the US consulate general demanding the United States stop supporting Israel's deadliest assault yet on impoverished Gaza.

"We are not here to blame. We just want both sides to stop fighting on humanitarian grounds," said Christopher Ma, a student at University of Hong Kong who initiated the protest with his classmate, Felix Lam.

"We want Hong Kong people to know what is happening out there," Ma told reporters.

Elsewhere in Asia, 20,000 Indonesian Muslims staged a peaceful rally Sunday in the capital of Jakarta. Protesters from the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) gathered at the national monument in Jakarta and marched through the streets.

Further rallies will take place in some of Europe's major cities to denounce the 16-day-old offensive on the Gaza Strip, while a number of demonstrations in support of Israel will also be held.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews gathered in London's Trafalgar Square on Sunday morning against Hamas and to call for peace in Israel and Gaza.

"Our prayers at this time continue to be for a just and lasting peace for the people of the region," Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said in a statement.

In the German cities of Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich tens of thousands of people were expected to participate in similar pro-Israeli demonstrations.

Meanwhile in Brussels, trade unionists, pressure groups and political parties held a demonstration to call for an immediate ceasefire.

In Rome, over a thousand people formed a human chain from the Jewish quarter of the Italian capital to the local headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, the ANSA news agency reported.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations were also expected to be held in Madrid and Berlin later Sunday.

London protests turn ugly

Protestors and riot police clash outside the Israeli embassy in London, Saturday

Protestors and police clash outside the Israeli embassy in London

On Saturday, the two biggest pro-Palestinian protests took place in London and Paris, with largely peaceful demonstrations in both capitals turning violent as the day wore on.

Angry demonstrators hurled missiles at riot police outside the Israeli embassy in London on Saturday as a protest against the Jewish state's offensive in the Gaza Strip turned ugly.

Demonstrators pushed over the barricades outside the embassy in Kensington, west London, while a gang tried to force entry to the embassy road from the other end.

Some threw sticks and stones at officers and police in riot gear and on horseback charged the crowd to keep them back, while protesters hurled a crash barrier through the window of a Starbucks coffee shop.

Organizers hoped that 100,000 people would attend the rally, which began in Hyde Park before progressing to the Israeli embassy. An early police estimate put the crowd figure at 12,000.

One person was arrested for aggravated trespass at the embassy protest, a spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police told reporters.

Celebrities and left-wing politicians addressed crowds in Hyde Park before marching to the Israeli embassy.

UK leftists show support for Palestine

Demonstrators carried placards reading "Stop the holocaust in Gaza," "Freedom for Palestine," "Gaza -- stop the massacre," "Zionists equals Nazis," "A salute to the gallant fighters of Hamas" and "Jews against the war on Gaza."

Israel vowed to escalate its war in Gaza on Saturday as troops battled Hamas fighters into a third week despite growing calls for a ceasefire as the death toll rose to 825.

Newspaper columnist Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of Tony Blair, the Middle East Quartet's envoy, told the Hyde Park crowd: "Tony Blair's only comment regarding the ceasefire has been to say that it can only take place after the tunnels in Gaza are destroyed.

"What he is suggesting means that after the massacre people will have no access to food, kerosene and medicines that came through those tunnels. That is not a ceasefire -- that is a slow, agonizing death."

Clashes with the police marred the end of last Saturday's demonstration in London and organizers had hoped for a more peaceful protest this time.

Lindsey German, convener of rally organizers the Stop the War Coalition, said: "We are calling for an end to the massacre and for Israel to get out of Gaza and Palestine.

"We want the British government to take a much stronger position."

Veteran left-wing campaigner Tariq Ali said beforehand: "The most appalling violence is happening in Gaza -- a few punch-ups outside the Israeli embassy is neither here nor there."

In the Scottish capital Edinburgh, organizers said 10,000 people attended a rally, where around 300 shoes and red paint were hurled at the US consulate.

Organizers estimated that around 5,000 people marched through central Belfast calling for an end to violence in the Middle East. Police said about 1,200 attended.

Rallies in support of Israel are scheduled to take place Sunday in London's Trafalgar Square and in Manchester, northwest England.

French marches descend into rioting

A demonstrator holds a placard reading Stop slaughter during a demonstration in Marseille

French protestors of Arab descent took to the streets

About 30,000 people marched through Paris, the interior ministry said, and more than 90,000 joined protests in more than 120 towns and cities elsewhere in France.

In the capital, thousands of French men and women of Arab origin carrying Palestinian banners joined forces with left-wing militants amid cries of "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) and "Israel murderer."

Protesters smashed a bus shelter and a telephone box in central Paris, and bottles were later thrown at riot police and shop windows smashed.

Police fired teargas after mobs overturned motor scooters and set them on fire.

A march in the southern city of Nice descended into violence. Seven police were hurt and 11 rioters arrested as youths broke off from a 2,500-strong crowd of protesters and smashed shop windows.

Widespread European demonstrations planned for Sunday

Demonstrations took place on the streets of other European cities including Athens, Berlin, Budapest, Oslo, Sarajevo and Stockholm.

Palestinian supporters protest against the ongoing attacks by Israel in Gaza, in Berlin

Berlin is expected to host more protests on Sunday

In Sarajevo, peace activist Svetlana Broz told a 1,000-strong pro-Palestinian demonstration that the city knew better than others "what happens when the world remains silent at a time when innocent civilians suffer", referring to the bloody siege of the city in the 1992-95 war in the former Yugoslavia.

Police in Oslo fired teargas after a small group among a crowd of 2,000 pelted them with stones, and up to 5,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm to call for an end to the military campaign.

More than 6,000 people gathered for a peaceful rally in Berlin, with similar shows of support for the Palestinians in Munich and Cologne.

In western Germany, some 10,000 people, largely from the ethnic Turkish community, protested in Duisburg. Police briefly intervened when demonstrators threw snowballs at a window bearing two Israeli flags.

Innsbruck in western Austria staged a peaceful protest of 3,500 people waving banners saying "Stop Israeli terror" and 7,000 protestors turned out in Bern, Switzerland.

In Athens, more than 2,000 people took part in a protest staged by left-wing groups and thousands demonstrated in Milan and Turin.

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