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Protests in Europe

DW staff (sp)
January 4, 2009

Thousands of protesters marched in cities across Europe Saturday to demand an end to Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip, a day before Israeli troops launched a ground offensive into the densely populated territory.

Palestinian supporters demonstrating in Berlin
Palestinian supporters demonstrating in BerlinImage: AP

Hundreds of Turks demonstrated outside the Israeli and United Nations missions in Istanbul and Ankara overnight in protest at Israel's ground offensive in Gaza, media reports said.

Hundreds of people, carrying Turkish and Israeli flags, marched to the Israeli consulate in the business district of Levent, in Istanbul's European side, reports said.

"Shut down the Zionist embassy, Palestine is not alone," chanted the protestors, who also burned an Israeli flag.

On Saturday, thousands of people took to the streets in Germany, Britain, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey to protest Israel's air raids on the Gaza Strip and demand an end to the military action.

Large rally in London

One of the biggest rallies was held in London, where police said more than 10,000 turned out for a march that began peacefully but ended in a string of arrests.

Many people carried red, green, white and black Palestinian flags and some chanted "Israel terrorists" and "Free, free Palestine" as they filed along the River Thames towards Trafalgar Square.

Some protesters threw their shoes at the iron gates of British Premier Gordon Brown's Downing Street home to express their anger at his refusal to condemn Israeli airstrikes that have killed hundreds of Palestinians.

After the march through London, about 5,000 people gathered outside the Israeli embassy, police said, where they were confronted with hundreds of police officers in riot gear.

Police said a small number of people threw sticks at them, but the Stop the War Coalition complained of heavy handed policing. Fifteen arrests were made.

Later, when news of the Israeli ground operation broke, the coalition called for further protests outside the Israeli embassy on Sunday and all next week.

Germany could play "key role"

In Paris, police said more than 21,000 demonstrators, many wearing Palestinian keffiyeh headscarves, marched through the city center chanting slogans such as "Israel murderer!" and waving banners demanding an end to the air attacks.

Some of the protests ended in clashes with police and a number of cars were reportedly set on fire.

In Germany, rallies were held in a number of cities including Berlin, Frankfurt and Duesseldorf. Police estimated that the Frankfurt demonstration drew around 10,000 people while 7,000 protested in the German capital.

Israel's ambassador to Germany, Yoram Ben-Zeev, said Germany could play a key role in solving the Gaza conflict.

"Germany is a very important partner in this political process -- I believe more than any other European country," Ben-Zeev told newspaper Bild am Sonntag. He added that Germany enjoyed the trust of both Israel as well as Arab nations.

In Athens, Greek police said they fired teargas at protesters outside the Israeli embassy in Athens. Protesters burnt flags and effigies, hurled stones at the embassy and clashed with police during a march by about 5,000 people, they said.

Demonstrations were also held in Dublin, Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam.

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