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Thursday, July 27, 2006

March in protest against Israeli attacks

Thousands of demonstrators marched through London and hundreds more gathered in Amsterdam today to protest against Israeli attacks in Lebanon and the refusal of the US and British governments to condemn them.

Police said around 7,000 people joined the London protest as it snaked from the banks of the Thames to Hyde Park, first in brilliant sunshine and then in torrential rain. Many carried red and white Lebanese flags and placards condemning ''Israeli crimes in Lebanon''.

''Having seen the devastation on our TV screens in recent days, it's impossible to view the Israeli response as anything other than a gross over-reaction,'' said Yasmin Ataullah, spokeswoman for the British Muslim Initiative, one of the groups behind the rally. Hundreds more protesters took to the streets of Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and Sheffield.

In Amsterdam, around 700 people gathered near Dam Square to condemn the Israeli assault, which has killed 349 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, in the past 11 days.

''We will win against the biggest terrorists in the world,'' said Ali Nasraka Afyouni, a 23-year-old who left southern Lebanon for the Netherlands seven years ago.
The protest came two days after around 2,000 pro-Israeli demonstrators gathered in Amsterdam.

A similar show of solidarity with Israel is planned near London tomorrow evening and will be addressed by Britain's chief rabbi. ''Israel has the right to defend itself aganst unprovoked attacks on sovereign soil,'' said Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Much of the anger in yesterday's London protest was directed at the British government for its refusal to openly condemn Israel's actions and call for an immediate ceasefire. ''We're disgusted by the way the US and Britain have isolated themselves from the rest of the international community,'' Ataullah said.

Speaking in Beirut, Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells made the strongest criticism yet of Israel by a British government minister. ''These have not been surgical strikes. It's very, very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used,'' he told reporters.


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