Saturday, January 03, 2009

World Protests Gaza Conflict

[Unbiased news is hard to find in the United States...]

by the BBC
January 3, 2009

Mass demonstrations are being held around the world in protest at Israel's military offensive against Hamas, as the campaign enters its second week.

Rallies are being held in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Athens and several Asian cities, following similar events in parts of the Muslim world on Friday.

Earlier, tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs called for an end to the bombing campaign at a rally in northern Israel.

US President George W Bush meanwhile blamed the violence firmly on Hamas.

He said Hamas was a terrorist organisation, backed by Iran and Syria, and dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

Mr Bush said any ceasefire in Gaza should be monitored in order to halt the flow of smuggled weapons and prevent Hamas re-arming.

Earlier, the exiled political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, warned that a "black destiny" awaited Israeli forces if they launched a ground offensive.

Overnight, another commander of its military wing, Abu Zakaria al-Jamal, was killed in an air strike.

Israel has now carried out more than 700 strikes on Gaza since launching the offensive a week ago, the AFP news agency says.

The UN has warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis, and believes 25% of more than 400 Palestinians killed by Israel so far were civilians.

Thousands of people voiced their anger at the continued Israeli offensive in Gaza during a series of rallies across the world on Saturday.

In central London, protesters - including the singer Annie Lennox and former mayor Ken Livingstone - marched along the Embankment to Trafalgar Square. Some chanted "Free, free Palestine" and "Israel terrorists".

Many stopped en route to throw hundreds of shoes at the gates of Downing Street, echoing the protest of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush last month.

Lyndsey German, of the Stop the War Coalition, said the protest was "just the start of the campaign".

"If there is an invasion of Gaza, as looks likely, by the Israeli army, if the blockade continues with people suffering from shortages of food and medicine, then I think this will grow," she said.

Tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs earlier staged a protest in the northern Israeli town of Sakhnin about the bombing raids on Gaza.

Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, and chanted slogans denouncing Israeli leaders, including "Gaza will not surrender to the tanks and bulldozers" and "Don't fear, Gaza, we are with you".

Following a minute's silence, Sakhnin mayor Mazen Ghanaim said the Israeli military was "committing crimes in Gaza before the eyes of the international community", but also called on militants to stop firing rockets into Israel.

One Israeli Arab politician, Jamal Zahalka, said it had been the biggest demonstration by Israel's Arab minority in the past 10 years.

There was also a large protest by Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Israeli air and naval forces continued to bomb and shell targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday. One person was killed as large parts of the American International School in the north-western town of Beit Lahiya were destroyed.

© MMVIII BBC

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