BEIRUT

Middle East

Thousands in France march against Israel's Gaza offensive

French Foreign Affairs minister Laurent Fabius leaves Prime minister official residence, the Hotel Matignon, after attending a meetinf gathering French government members on July 10, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD

PARIS: Thousands of people in France protested Sunday against Israel and in support of residents in the Gaza Strip, where a six-day conflict has left 166 Palestinians dead.

Several thousand demonstrators marched calmly through the streets of Paris behind a large banner that read "Total Support for the Struggle of the Palestinian People".

In the northern city of Lille, between 2,300 and 6,000 people protested, according to differing figures provided by the police and organisers.

The latest descent into violence began on June 12 when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and later murdered, triggering a major military crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank and an escalation of rocket fire from Gaza.

The brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists on July 2 added further fuel to the fire, becoming an all-out conflict on July 8 when Israel launched an air campaign against Gaza militants.

The Palestinian death toll from Israel's punishing air campaign has hit 166.

So far, no Israelis have been killed, although militants in Gaza have pounded the country with nearly 700 rockets since the fighting began and a further 150 have been intercepted by the Jewish state's Iron Dome defence system.

"I came to say no to this massacre," Amid Hamadouch, 30, told AFP at the Paris protest, with a sticker reading "Boycott Israel, Racist State" on his jacket.

"They are bombing innocent people. There are missiles being launched by Hamas, but the Israeli response is disproportionate. They are attacking the civilian population and not Hamas officials."

The crowd, very young, shouted slogans such as : "We Are All Palestinians!" and "Only One Solution, End the Occupation!".

Many protesters carried banners on which they had stuck photos taken from the Internet, reportedly showing Palestinian children killed or injured, houses razed to the ground or clouds of smoke emerging from bombed districts in Gaza.

According to the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a majority of those killed in Gaza so far -- 70 percent -- have been civilians, of whom 30 percent were children.

 

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