Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East on Saturday, shouting protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
Protesters burned Israeli flags in Sweden and threw shoes at the US consulate in Edinburgh, Scotland. In central London, three officers were hurt when demonstrators hurled shoes and placards at police outside the Israeli Embassy. One officer was knocked unconscious. Some 180 people were arrested in Paris.
But in Innsbruck, Austria, volunteer security personnel arranged by the Islamic organizers of a demonstration moved quickly to surround and protect an elderly man after he suddenly unrolled an Israeli flag in the middle of the protest. The 3,500 Innsbruck marchers carried banners calling for “Freedom for Palestine” and saying “Stop the Israeli Terror.”
Israel says its 2-week-old offensive is intended to stop Palestinian Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel. Palestinian medical officials say more than 800 people have been killed.
A crowd of 12,000 gathered in London’s Hyde Park carrying placards marked “Gaza: Stop the massacre” and chanting “free, free Palestine.”
Police said 15 people were arrested after a group of around 2,000 demonstrators clashed with police guarding the Israeli embassy. Two were detained on suspicion of assaulting police officers.
Scores of marches were held across France, the biggest of them in the capital, where police estimated 30,000 people took part. Paris police scuffled with a small group toward the end.
Police said they made 180 arrests and a dozen police officers were injured.
Police said a crowd of 5,000 to 10,000 demonstrated in Lyon, up to 4,500 in Marseille and 3,500 in Grenoble at the foot of the Alps.
Police estimated that 30,000 people protested in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona, some carrying bloodstained blankets and mock dead bodies of children.
The demonstration had been called by around 300 Catalan groups who have asked the Spanish government to back cease-fire initiatives and to stop all trade, especially arms, with Israel.
In Italy, several thousand people carrying Palestinian flags marched in Milan, Florence and Venice to protest the Israeli offensive. In Milan, protesters burned a white sheet with the Star of David on it, and some participants carried posters with the Israeli flag and a swastika on them, the ANSA news agency reported.
In Germany, some 8,500 people rallied in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz and then marched to the city’s main train station yelling slogans including “Israel and USA: the Intifada is back” and “Israel lets blood flow, Israel shoots innocents.”
Hundreds of police were deployed along the Berlin demonstration route, and several Hamas flags were confiscated from the protesters.
No serious incidents were reported, however, police said.
In the western German city of Duisburg, 10,000 people marched.
“We want to show our solidarity with the victims in the Gaza Strip, and signal our opposition to the oppression and violence in Gaza,” said organizer Engin Karahan.
Protesters threw snowballs at two Israeli flags that hung from the windows of a house along the demonstration route, but otherwise no incidents were reported.
In Norway, police used tear gas to try to disperse at least 1,000 protesters after some hurled bottles, rocks and fired fireworks at officers during a pro-Palestinian rally in the capital. Two people were injured during the rally, and two were taken into custody, said Oslo police spokeswoman Unni Groendal.