Thousands of Israeli citizens have taken to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to protest recent attacks on Palestinians and gay pride participants. A young Palestinian died after being shot by Israeli soldiers.
Some 2,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday for a rally organized by the Israeli watchdog Peace Now, with smaller pro-tolerance marches held in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities.
Protesters held banners reading "enough incitement, enough violence" and called on the government to crack down on crimes by Israeli West Bank settlers.
The Saturday demonstrations come a day after suspected Jewish extremists set fire to a Palestinian house on the West Bank, killing a toddler in his sleep and seriously injuring his four-year-old brother and both of the parents.
The burning was preceded by another suspected hate crime, when an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed six people at the Jerusalem gay pride parade on Thursday. One of the victims is still in critical condition.
'Flames of hatred'
"We call on the government to take strong action against the violence of the settlers and to restart immediately the peace process," Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer told the AFP news agency at the Saturday rally in Tel Aviv.
An uncle of the 18-month-old Palestinian toddler also addressed the crowd.
The gathered citizens then joined a nearby vigil for the Pride victims, organized by Israel's gay community.
Hundreds of people also gathered at the site of the stabbings in Jerusalem.
"Flames of hatred have spread through our country, flames of violence, of hatred, of false and distorted beliefs," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a speech to the crowd.
Palestinian youth dies
The attack on the Palestinian home also sparked protests and skirmishes between the Palestinians and Israeli security forces on Friday. An 18-year-old Palestinian died after Israeli soldiers shot him in the chest during a Friday rally near Ramallah, a Palestinian health official said on Saturday.
The army claims that they shot the youth after he threw a fire bomb at them.
The Palestinians accuse the Tel Aviv government of not doing enough to protect them from hate crimes perpetrated by extremist Jewish settlers. Militants have for years targeted Palestinian property, as well as mosques, churches, peaceful Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases.
dj/gsw (AP, AFP)