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Quds Day protests against Israel begin in Berlin

Quds Day protests have begun in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany. The annual event calls for demonstrations against Israel's occupation of Jerusalem.

Quds Day protests began at 2:30 p.m. (1230 UTC) Friday in Berlin. The annual event sees demonstrators against Israel's occupation of the West Bank, and specifically Jerusalem, face off against the country's supporters.

With Israel

waging an assault on Gaza

, the voices have grown a bit louder and a whole lot more police are on the scene this year. Deutsche Welle's Naomi Conrad is also on hand.

The event, annually the final Friday of Ramadan, began 35 years ago in Iran, when Ayatollah Khomeini called for solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem, or Quds, the city's name in Arabic.

'Certainly tense'

Ahead of the event, police expected more than 1,500 protesters, both those opposing Israel's long-term occupation of the West Bank and current war in the Gaza Strip or counterdemonstrators supporting the country's actions. About 1,000 police officers are on hand to keep the groups away from each other and to enforce a series of rules barring anti-Semitic speech. Both sides have welcomed the police presence, and the Quds Day protesters have also deployed several people to ensure that things don't get out of hand on their side.

Michael Spaney, a spokesperson for the pro-Israel "Stop the Bomb" campaign, told DW ahead of the event that violence was possible, saying that "the atmosphere is certainly tense." Stop the Bomb, along with other pro-Israel organizations, called for people to take to the streets in demonstrations to counter the Quds Day protests.

Many groups have accused those who sympathize with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank or besieged Gaza Strip of anti-Semitism. However, many others have said that opposing a country's politics does not also mean opposing an entire ethnic group. Indeed, Jewish organizations were on hand to march alongside the pro-Palestinian protesters at the Quds Day demonstrations (pictured).

"It must also be possible to be allowed to criticize Israeli politics just like the politics of other countries," said Nurhan Soykan, the secretary-general of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. She added that it is not an Islamic value to "insult believers in other religions."

The event began with clouds and rain - and protesters from both sides, along with police, hoping things wouldn't get any stormier.

mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, epd)

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