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Thousands attend pro-Palestine marches in UK as Gaza braces for invasion

Thousands of people have turned out for pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the UK, amid international concern over the situation in Israel and Gaza.

A gathering in London attracted a crowd of thousands, with police warning in advance that anyone showing support for militant group Hamas could face arrest.

More than 1,000 officers were deployed by the Metropolitan Police for Saturday’s demonstration in the capital, with other rallies and protests held across the country.

<p>Thousands of people have turned out for the march in London  </p>
Thousands of people have turned out for the march in London(PA Wire)

It comes as Palestinians began a mass exodus from northern Gaza after Israel’s military told them to evacuate ahead of an expected ground invasion.

The UN, human rights groups and others have been among those expressing deep concern about the impact of Israeli action on civilians, as the death toll continues to grow amid airstrikes and a siege on the territory.

The renewed violence came after an attack last week by the Palestinian militant group left hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers dead.

Protesters gathered outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House in Portland Place ahead of the London march on Saturday afternoon, waving Palestine flags and carrying placards.

Flares in the national colours of red, green and black were set off early on the route, while chants of “Free, free Palestine” could be heard as people made their way through the centre of the capital.

Rallies were also being held in Manchester and Edinburgh and other parts of the UK.

<p>Crowds gathered to show their support for Palestinians  </p>
Crowds gathered to show their support for Palestinians(PA Wire)

The Met said that certain areas of London would be covered by a Section 60AA power until 10pm, which requires a person to remove items such as masks that might be used to conceal their identity.

Section 12 of the Public Order Act is also in force covering the demonstration route, which finishes in Whitehall.

As marchers arrived in the thoroughfare and made their way to a stage outside Downing Street, chants of “Rishi Sunak, shame on you” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” rang out among the crowd.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman earlier this week urged police chiefs to consider whether that pro-Palestine slogan could be amount to an offence, while also suggesting that waving Palestinian flags could in some contexts be seen as illegitimate.

<p>The Met Police had warned anyone showing support for Hamas could be arrested </p>
The Met Police had warned anyone showing support for Hamas could be arrested(REUTERS)

Ahead of the demonstration the BBC’s headquarters in London was targeted and daubed in red paint.

Police have not linked the incident to any particular protest group, but it comes after the broadcaster faced days of criticism from senior Conservatives and others for its editorial stance of not describing Hamas militants as terrorists.

The UK Government has been steadfast in support of Israel, with ministers also calling on police to use the “full force of the law” against shows of support for Hamas or bids to intimidate the UK’s Jewish community.

<p>The march proceeded to Downing Street, with chants of “Rishi Sunak, shame on you”</p>
The march proceeded to Downing Street, with chants of “Rishi Sunak, shame on you”(REUTERS)

Amid concerns about the scale of the Israeli response, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday that the country has “every right to defend itself” from Hamas attacks but stressed that civilian safety must be “paramount in our minds”.

Orly Goldschmidt, spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy to the UK, earlier insisted that Israel was not targeting civilians, but admitted that innocent people would be casualties of the conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

“There will be innocent people who will pay tragically with their life, but this is a state of war and we have to prevent anyone from harming us again,” she told Times Radio.

Overnight it emerged that an RAF flight had left Israel as part of a UK Government effort to get British nationals to safety.

A plane carried passengers to Cyprus, with the air force assisting the Foreign Office amid a limited availability of commercial flights.

Three Britons are confirmed to have died during last weekend’s assault on Israel, but reports have suggested at least 17 could be among the casualties.

Source: The independent