Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across the world for a weekend of demonstrations demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Pro-Palestine demonstrations took place on Saturday in various cities including Washington, DC; London; Paris; Berlin; Milan and Dhaka. In Turkey, a convoy of Palestine supporters headed to a US military base in the south of the country for a protest to coincide with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken‘s arrival to the country on Sunday.
On Saturday, at least 15 people were killed and dozens more wounded in an Israeli attack on al-Fakhoora school in Jabalia refugee camp, as Israel continued its air and ground assault of the besieged enclave.
Since the war began, 9,488 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. More children have died in Gaza in this war so far than in all conflicts around the world in each of the past four years, according to the charity Save the Children. More than 1,400 people in Israel have died, mostly in the October 7 attacks by Palestinian group Hamas on southern Israel.
Large crowds held sit-down protests in London blocking Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus before marching to and gathering in Trafalgar Square.
Protesters held “Freedom for Palestine” placards and chanted “ceasefire now” and “in our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians”.
London’s Metropolitan Police estimated that around 30,000 attended the rally. Police said they had made 11 arrests, including one for displaying a placard that could incite hate, contrary to terrorism legislation.
Earlier, some demonstrators had also gathered outside the BBC headquarters in London in protest at the network’s coverage of the war, which they called “biased”.
Echoing Washington’s stance, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has stopped short of calling for a ceasefire, and instead advocated humanitarian pauses to allow aid into Gaza.
Thousands also marched in central Paris to call for a ceasefire with placards reading “Stop the cycle of violence” and “To do nothing, to say nothing is to be complicit.”
It was one of the first, big gatherings in support of Palestinians to be legally allowed in Paris since the war began.
“We came here today to show the people of France’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and our support for peace, for a peace solution with two states, an Israeli state and a Palestinian state,” said Antoine Guerreiro, a 30-year-old civil servant.
Wahid Barek, a 66-year-old retiree, lamented the deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
“I deplore civilian deaths on both sides. Civilians have nothing to do with these actions. It really is shameful,” he said.
In Berlin, about 6,500 people gathered at midday for a demonstration that police said was taking place under strict conditions. Germany had previously banned Palestine solidarity rallies.
People carrying Palestinian flags and placards reading “Stop the genocide in Gaza” or “From the river to the sea – we demand equality” gathered on Alexanderplatz, a major square in the centre of the city.
One speaker called for an end to the “apartheid culture” and a stop to the bombing of Gaza.
Some 4,000 protesters marched through the streets of Milan in support of a ceasefire, according to local media.
The demonstration called under the slogan “Stop war, no racism” took place just as in a nearby square, the far-right League party held a rally “in defence of the West”.
In the Senegalese capital, Dakar, people gathered outside the central mosque with placards and Palestinian flags.
“This protest was supposed to take place last week, but it was banned,” Al Jazeera’s Nicholas Haque reported from Dakar.
“There are many Senegalese people, but also the Lebanese Senegalese community has also come out in numbers to show their support.”
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Istanbul and Ankara, a day before a visit to Turkey by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for talks on Gaza.
In Istanbul’s Sarachane Park, they held banners that read, “Blinken, the accomplice of the massacre, go away from Turkey”, with a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blinken together with a red “X” mark on it.
In the Turkish capital, Ankara, demonstrators rallied near the US embassy, chanting slogans and holding posters which read: “Israel bombs hospitals, Biden pays for it.”
Meanwhile, a “freedom convoy for Palestine” headed to the Incirlik military base near the southern city of Adana, primarily used by Turkish and US forces. Organisers expects thousands of vehicles to converge around the base on Sunday.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in Washington, DC in the largest demonstration since the war began on October 7.
“I am surrounded by a sea of protesters, more than I have seen since the war on Gaza started,” Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro said.
“Organisers have called this the big one, they are expecting somewhere between 20,000 up to 100,000 people,” she added. “The crowd around me isn’t just Arab Americans who are rallying in support of Palestinians in Gaza, but also many Americans from all walks of life.”
A Jewish American protester attending a march for Gaza said President Joe Biden needs to stop funding Israel’s army.
“I’m a human being and I care about the people in Gaza being murdered. I care about genocide going on in the name of Jewish people by Zionists who do not represent Judaism,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I object to the US funding this genocidal war. That’s what we’re doing – it wouldn’t happen if the US did not fund Israel,” he said.