Hundreds in London Israeli embassy protests

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of people today returned to the Israeli Embassy to protest at the country's bombardment of opponents in Gaza.

The crowd outside the Embassy in Kensington, central London, chanted slogans in support of Palestine from behind heavy metal barriers, facing a line of around 30 police officers while a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Yesterday's protest outside the Embassy saw seven people arrested for public order offences, including assaulting police officers, during angry clashes.

The atmosphere this afternoon was calmer, with protestors who attended yesterday noting that their numbers were slightly less - adding that people were now focusing on the rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

For Lindsey German, the national convenor for the Stop The War Coalition, today was the third time she had joined protestors outside the Embassy.

"I feel that what is happening in Gaza is complete barbarism," she said.

"The Israeli government has obviously been planning it for a very long time.

"I think what they are imposing on the people of Gaza is collective punishment."

She said of the reaction from the international community: "I imagine 300 people (dead) in Israel or this country - it wouldn't be a bit of diplomacy going on. There would be condemnation, sanctions and so on.

"That's why we are here today.

"We want the end of the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and we want the end of the blockade of Gaza."

Kevin Ovenden, 40, was also protesting outside the Embassy for the third day.

He said: "The reason that I am here along with everybody else is to try and draw as much attention as possible in Britain to the crime that Israel is committing in Gaza and also the complicity of the British Government which has consistently sided with Israel."

Mr Ovenden, from Tower Hamlets in east London, who is parliamentary assistant to George Galloway MP and has family in Iran, said he had noticed a "sea change" in the British public's attitude.

"Many people who didn't understand the issue or didn't need to care are now expressing deep anger at what is happening to the people of Gaza and demanding that Israel stop."

He said that among those arrested yesterday was a young man whose keyring in the shape of Palestine was confiscated as, he was told, it was "like a dagger".

A 20-year-old local government worker also from Tower Hamlets, who did not wish to give his name, said: "When people like George Bush and Condoleezza Rice think it's okay to keep their mouths shut at a time like this it's up to us, the public, to make our voices known.

"The Palestinians don't have a voice. The only voices that are heard are those coming from the corridors of power, Downing Street and the White House.

"It's obvious what needs to happen - the bombardment of the Palestinians needs to stop."

Today is the fourth day of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, which have killed more than 350 Palestinians and left another 1,400 wounded by the end of yesterday.