In the first major pro-Israeli demonstration in France since hostilities erupted in the Gaza Strip earlier this month, thousands of people took to the streets of Marseille on Sunday, chanting “Israel has the right to defend itself.”
An estimated 2,000 people gathered at the city’s Old Port, perched on the edge of the Mediterranean, proudly waving French and Israeli flags under the afternoon sun. Some protesters brandished banners that read “Halt Hamas terrorism,” while many chanted “Hamas assassin, live Israel”.
“We are here to show our solidarity with Israel, which has been attacked and has a right to defend itself,” William Labi, who heads the council that presides over Marseille’s local Jewish congregations, told the Reuters news agency.
The demonstration was organised by CRIF, a group that represents different Jewish organisations in France, and was attended by several local politicians.
The Israel-Gaza conflict has proven a highly contentious issue in France. There have been several pro-Palestinian protests in cities across the country over the past few weeks, including an unauthorised one in Paris on Saturday that ended in violence.
In Marseille, things were mostly peaceful. There was momentary tension when about a dozen pro-Palestinian protesters tried to interrupt the demonstration, yelling anti-Israeli chants, but they were quickly escorted away by police.
In a separate incident, another group of pro-Palestinian protesters waved a Palestinian flag from a balcony overlooking the Old Port while shouting “Israel assassin,” prompting angry cries from the crowd below.
Israel launched its offensive on the Gaza Strip on July 8, citing a surge in rocket fire from Hamas militants in the Palestinian enclave. More than 1,000 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting. Israel says 43 of its soldiers have died, as well as three civilians.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-28