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Pro-Palestinian demonstrators across Europe step out in support of ceasefire

Huge crowds gathered in countries across Europe over the weekend in support of Palestinians and the Palestinian territories - two weeks after Hamas launched its major offensive against Israel.

For the second consecutive weekend, demonstrators took to the streets of London on Saturday and Sunday - voicing an anti-war message.

Police in London estimated around 100,000 people took part in Saturday's rally, chanting “Free Palestine”, holding banners and waving Palestinian flags.

The protesters marched through the city before congregating outside Downing Street, the official residence of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

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In Rome, hundreds of protesters called for a stop to Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.

Waving Palestinian flags, the demonstrators marched with the cry of "Free Palestine!" and held banners that read: "No peace until we get freedom."

"Israel carries out war crimes there, crimes against humanity there, and the international community has never acted," said Maya Issa, president of the Movement of Palestinian Students in Italy, who organised the demonstration.

Protesters hold flags and shout slogans gather for a pro-Palestinian rally in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023
Protesters hold flags and shout slogans gather for a pro-Palestinian rally in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023 - Gregorio Borgia/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Despite a ban on demonstrations issued by Berlin police, several hundred pro-Palestine demonstrators marched unhindered through the streets of the German capital on Saturday.

Present in force, the police surrounded the demonstrators and finally allowed the procession to move on.

Protesters hold flags and shout slogans gather for a pro-Palestinian rally in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.
Protesters hold flags and shout slogans gather for a pro-Palestinian rally in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. - Sven Kauler/(c) Copyright 2023, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten

Last week, Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said German police had recorded more than 1,100 offences in relation to the Israel-Gaza conflict since Hamas launched its deadly attack earlier this month.

At the same time, thousands of people in Berlin gathered at a demonstration called to show opposition to antisemitism and support for Israel.

People carried Israeli flags or posters with photos of some of the people reported to be missing or held by Hamas as hostages.

The protest, organised by a broad alliance of various organisations, comes as antisemitic incidents have been rising in Germany following the violent escalation of the war in Gaza.

On Sunday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz inaugurated a new synagogue in the eastern city of Dessau saying that Germany stands "firmly on Israel's side".

He also said he was “outraged” by the upsurge in antisemitism since the conflict began.

Several buildings in Berlin where Jews live had the star of David painted on doors and walls, and assailants threw two Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Berlin last week.

In response to a call by several associations, around a hundred people gathered near the old port of Marseille in southern France to call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

"In Marseille, we want to take action" and fight "against this climate of anxiety that is spreading", Kamel Fassatoui, head of a local Emmaus branch that organised the rally with the Bouches-du-Rhône Human Rights League (LDH), said.

"It's not about taking sides. We want to be the voice of peace. We need to put pressure on our politicians", he added through a megaphone.

Elsewhere, demonstrators gathered in front of the Red Cross building in Geneva to demand the immediate release of the Israeli hostages being held captive by the Hamas militant group inside of the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday hundreds of people gathered in Sarajevo -- bombed and besieged during the Bosnian war in the 1990s -- to show solidarity with the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.

Among them was a Palestinian doctor who had worked in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war in 1992.

"What is happening in Gaza is simply [a] human disaster. Collective punishment. War crimes. These things have to be named by their rightful name," Nabil Naser said.

The protests were supported by Sarajevo city hall and Mayor Benjamina Karic attended the rally.