Hundreds of thousands of pro-Palestine supporters poured onto the streets of central London on Saturday to demand Israel halt its bombing campaign and siege of the Gaza Strip after the heaviest night of bombing yet.
At the rally, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other groups, protesters could be heard chanting “Free Palestine” and “End the genocide” as they moved from the Embankment towards Westminster after passing near Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street office.
Organisers said the number of people in attendance was around 500,000, making it one of the biggest pro-Palestine demonstrations in the western world.
Some in the crowd could also be heard chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, referring to the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean – a chant UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman previously urged police chiefs to consider interpreting as an “expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world”.
During the march, Emily, a young British-Jewish protester, said that it was imperative the British public continued to pile pressure on the UK government and Israel to halt the bombing campaign on Gaza.
“I want to tell the people of Gaza that us as British Jews, we stand in solidarity with you, not in spite of the fact that we’re Jewish but because we’re Jewish, and that we hope that this ends as soon as it can,” she told Middle East Eye.
Organisers said they anticipated numbers to exceeding last week’s demonstration, when police estimated that around 100,000 people joined.
Protesters claimed that the real figure for last week’s demonstration was in the region of 300,000, while an estimated 500,000 attended the latest protest. MEE could not independently verify the claims.
Ben Jamal, the director of PSC, said that protesters were “marching today in the most horrendous of situations”.
“Up to yesterday, we knew that over 8,000 Palestinians had already been killed in Gaza, including more than 3,000 children,” he said. “But last night Israel launched a major bombardment and cut off all communications. This is an act of pure barbarism.
“So we are marching today, not knowing how many Palestinians are dead, how many children now lie under the rubble.”
MEE lost all contact with all its journalists in Gaza on Friday, making it increasingly challenging to document news from the ground.
The Palestinian phone service provider, Paltel, said in a statement that relentless Israeli bombardment had destroyed “all remaining connections between Gaza and the outside world”, leading to the complete interruption of communications services.
The service outage came as Palestinians braced for an anticipated Israeli ground invasion of Gaza following a Hamas-led attack on 7 October that left more than 1,400 people dead and resulted in about 220 people being taken to Gaza as prisoners.
An Israeli military spokesperson told ABC News that the expanded ground operation was not an official ground invasion, while an unnamed US official also told the outlet that Israel was launching a “more limited incursion”.
Still, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s adviser, Mark Regev, spoke to several US media outlets on Friday and said: “Hamas will feel our wrath tonight.”
“They will continue to be on the receiving end of our military blows until we have dismantled their military machine and dissolve their political structure in Gaza. When this is over, Gaza will be very different,” Regev said on Fox News.
Late on Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pressed for a ceasefire, calling it a “moment of truth”.
“I repeat my call for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Middle East, the unconditional release of all hostages, and the delivery of life-saving supplies at the scale needed,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“Everyone must assume their responsibilities. This is a moment of truth. History will judge us all.”
A UN resolution co-sponsored by Jordan passed late on Friday, supported by 120 members, called for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” and demanded all parties comply with international humanitarian law and “continuous, sufficient and unhindered” provision of essential supplies and services into the Gaza Strip.
Fourteen members voted against the resolution, including Israel and the US.
Elsewhere in the UK on Saturday, thousands attended a pro-Palestinian rally outside Manchester’s Central Library at St Peter’s Square.
Disclaimer: Israel-Palestine war: Hundreds of thousands protest in London to demand Gaza ceasefire - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view