Thousands of people have attended vigils and protests in London over the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Pro-Palestinian protesters rallied outside the boarded-up Israeli embassy in Kensington on Monday night, chanting “Israel is a terrorist state” and “free Palestine” while letting off flares and fireworks.
Footage posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, showed police separating pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups at High Street Kensington tube station, not far from the embassy.
Meanwhile, about 2,000 people attended a vigil for Israel in Westminster organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council as Rishi Sunak attended a prayer service at Finchley United Synagogue in north London.
Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise assault on Israel on Saturday morning – first launching rocket salvoes across the border with the militant group then attacking towns and army bases in the south of the country.
In response, Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza and has since declared a “complete siege” of the enclave, cutting off water, food and power supplies. Hamas militants have threatened to start killing Israeli hostages if Israel continues to bomb civilian areas without prior warning.
At least 900 people have reportedly been killed in Israel and with more than 650 dead in Gaza since the conflict began. More than 100 people have been taken hostage by Hamas, according to Israel’s foreign ministry.
Groups including Stop the War and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign gathered at the demonstration in Kensington, waving placards calling for Israel to “end the occupation”.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said in a statement: “The offensive launched from Gaza can only be understood in the context of Israel’s ongoing, decades-long, military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land and imposition of a system of oppression that meets the legal definition of apartheid.
“This is the context in which we need to understand the cycle of violence. If violence is to end, both that of the oppressor and the oppressed, then we must all take action to end the root cause – Israeli apartheid and oppression of Palestinians.”
In Westminster, the security minister, Tom Tugendhat, the Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, and the shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, spoke at the pro-Israel vigil. Those in attendance waved the Israeli flag and banners reading: “I stand with Israel”.
Speaking before the vigil at Finchley United Synagogue, the chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said: “No civilised person cannot be moved, cannot be deeply shocked by the scenes of brutal terrorist outrage in Israel.
“There has just been an outpouring of grief, of concern and solidarity with so many people who, tragically, have been mercilessly murdered by terrorists. Every civilised person cannot fail to recognise how horrific these acts of terrorism are.”
The rabbi also hailed the UK’s prime minister as a “great and wonderful friend” of Israel and the Jewish people.
Sunak condemned the “barbaric acts” committed by Hamas, calling them “evil”. “There is no other word to describe what we have seen,” the prime minister said.
“Teenagers at a festival of peace gunned down in cold blood. Innocent men, women and children abducted, raped, slaughtered.
“There are not two sides to these events. There is no question of balance. I stand with Israel. We stand with Israel, the United Kingdom stands with Israel against this terrorism today, tomorrow and always.”
A Metropolitan police statement said: “We are aware of instances of suspected criminal damage in Kensington High Street. Officers are on scene, intervening and gathering evidence. We are actively seeking to locate and arrest those suspected of being involved in any criminal activity.”
On Sunday, the Met said it was putting more officers on the streets of the capital “to reassure and protect communities” in response to the conflict.
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/oct/09/thousands-attend-protests-and-vigils-in-london-over-israel-hamas-war Thousands attend protests and vigils in London over Israel-Hamas war | London