Demonstrators in cities around the world on Sunday marched in protest against the Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip that have killed more than 300 people in the Palestinian territory.
British police made 10 arrests as a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in London turned violent. Riot police moved in after people tore down the barriers keeping them back from the embassy.
Earlier on Sunday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for an “urgent ceasefire and immediate halt to all violence” in Gaza.
A call to “urgently halt” the military action also came from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who spoke to his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni.
The top diplomats in Italy and Spain, Franco Frattini and Miguel Angel Moratinos, also spoke by telephone with Livni who said Israel would try “to limit the suffering of the people of Gaza,” the Italian foreign ministry said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, told Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas by telephone of his grave concerns about the escalating violence in the region and the need for both sides to stop their aggressions.
Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday denounced the violence between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza, and urged everyone involved in the “tragic situation in the Middle East” to strive for humanity and wisdom.
The UN chief added his voice to the UN Security Council’s call for an immediate end to hostilities and urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the poverty-stricken territory.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “deplores that violence is continuing today and he strongly urges once again an immediate stop to all acts of violence,” his spokeswoman, Michele Montas, said in a statement.
While the outgoing Bush administration has blamed Hamas “thugs” for provoking the Israeli offensive by firing rockets into the Jewish state from Gaza, a top aide to US president-elect Barack Obama was more measured, saying Obama remained “committed” to achieving peace in the Middle East. Recognizing the special relationship between the US and Israel, Obama would work closely with the Israelis, David Axelrod said in an interview on CBS television.
“But he will do so in a way that will promote the cause of peace and work closely with the Israelis and the Palestinians on that — toward that objective,” Axelrod said.
Around European capitals, Danish police arrested a man on the fringes of a protest march in Copenhagen after he threw a petrol bomb at officers. Police said the rally drew about 700 people, though organizers put the number closer to 2,000.
In Paris, about 200 people gathered on the Champs Elysees, while across the city in the northern district of Barbes, an area with a high concentration of north Africans, police said 1,300 others had joined an anti-Israel protest.
In Madrid, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Israeli embassy, brandishing placards reading “Israel terrorist,” “Stop state terrorism” and “No to the Palestinian holocaust.”
The largest single protest of about 8,000 people took place in Egypt on the streets of the southern city of Assiut. Some 4,000 protesters rallied in the capital Cairo, while a demonstration in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria drew a similar number, a security official said.
Lebanese Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah urged Egyptians in their “millions” to take to the streets to force their government to open the country’s border with Gaza, to help save Palestinians from the Israeli bombardments.