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Pro-Palestinian protest in London sees thousands call for bombing to stop

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have marched in London and across the UK to urge an end to Israel’s attacks in Gaza.

Demonstrators gathered on the streets of the capital holding flags and banners as they demanded an end to the bombing.

There have been nine arrests, some of which are being treated as suspected hate crimes.

Protests also took place in Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast and other cities.

It follows the recent upsurge in conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Israel has expanded its strikes, three weeks after Hamas launched a cross-border attack that killed 1,400 people and saw 229 people kidnapped as hostages.

Since then, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 7,500 Palestinians have been killed as Israel carried out retaliatory strikes.

Over the past three weekends huge protests have taken place in major UK cities.

On Saturday afternoon, crowds gathered near the Golden Jubilee Bridge holding signs saying “Gaza, stop the massacre” and “Free Palestine, end Israeli occupation”.

A sound system led people to chant “Stop arming Israel. Stop bombing Gaza” and “We are all Palestinian”.

Some in the crowd chanted “from the river to the sea”, referring to the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean – a chant UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman had previously urged police chiefs to consider interpreting as an “expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world”. Israel and most Jewish groups agree.

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and other activists contest this, saying the slogan refers to “the right of all Palestinians to freedom, equality and justice”.

During the march in London, an emotional Chrif El Amraoui told the BBC: “Just now marching, I’m crying because children are killed daily. Why? Why do they want more to be killed?”

Abdul Mahfuudi attended the protest with his children and said: “The most important thing for us is for them to stop killing kids. They need to stop.”

More than 1,000 Metropolitan Police officers were deployed across London.

Of the nine arrests made, seven were for alleged public order offences, a number of which were being treated as hate crimes, and two were for suspected assaults on officers.

Earlier, the Met Police said one person had been arrested in Whitehall for assaulting an officer.

The officer remains in hospital with a laceration to the head, but “is in good spirits & appreciates all your wishes”, the Met added, posting a photo of the officer with his head bandaged and doing a thumbs up.

Another man was arrested in Waterloo Road on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and making threats to kill.

Close to Downing Street, officers appeared to be detaining someone before scuffles broke out with demonstrators, with punches thrown and kicks.

Officers ordered the demonstrators to move away, and one person was carried away to chants of “let him go” from other protesters.

Scotland Yard also issued an appeal to identify two women in connection with an alleged hate crime incident in Trafalgar Square.

Throughout Saturday, the force used public order powers to prevent protesters from gathering outside the Israeli embassy.

It also has put in place extra powers until midnight allowing officers to search a person or vehicle for weapons or dangerous instruments and to require people to remove an item they are wearing “for the purposes of wholly or mainly concealing their identity”.

These powers apply across the City of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.

On Saturday evening the force said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that officers were monitoring a group gathered at Piccadilly Circus and would use separate powers to disperse anyone causing anti-social behaviour.

Elsewhere in the UK, thousands attended a pro-Palestinian rally outside Manchester’s Central Library at St Peter’s Square.

On Friday, the region’s mayor Andy Burnham joined international calls for “a ceasefire by all sides and for the hostages to be released unharmed”.

About 3,000 protesters gathered in Belfast City Centre for a rally which walked along Royal Avenue to City Hall.

A sea of Palestinian flags could be seen in Glasgow, with thousands gathering in George Square in the heart of the city calling for an immediate ceasefire. Some of the crowd clambered onto statues and monuments.

Last weekend, similar numbers of officers were involved in policing demonstrations in London and 10 people were arrested on the day.

A video later emerged online of a pro-Palestinian protester chanting “jihad” at a smaller protest near the main march last weekend, but the Met said it “had not identified any offences arising from the specific clip”.

It prompted Suella Braverman to question Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley over why arrests had not been made.

Ahead of this weekend’s demonstrations, the force said officers would be expected to intervene if protesters use the word “jihad” in chants.

“Jihad” literally means “effort” or “struggle” in Arabic. In Islam the main meaning is an internal struggle, such as a believer’s struggle to live in accordance with their faith.

It can also be an outward struggle or war, which in Islamic teaching must be in self defence and within prescribed limits.

Demonstrations have been taking place around the world to call for fighting to stop and for aid to be allowed into Gaza.

Protesters demanding a truce flooded Grand Central Terminal in New York, forcing the station to close temporarily.