Celebrating deaths in Israel and Gaza is despicable, says minister

James Heappey said he hopes police find two women who wore stickers appearing to feature Hamas paragliders during pro-Palestine protests in London.

Margaret Davis
Monday 16 October 2023 11:14 BST
Armed forces minister James Heappey condemned those celebrating loss of life (PA)
Armed forces minister James Heappey condemned those celebrating loss of life (PA) (PA Archive)

Armed forces minister James Heappey has condemned protesters who glorify the loss of life in Israel and Gaza amid a police hunt for two women who wore stickers appearing to feature Hamas attackers.

The Metropolitan Police has appealed for information about the pair who had pictures of paragliders taped to the back of their jackets at protests in London at the weekend.

Hamas, which is classed as a terrorist organisation in the UK, used paragliders as part of its attack on Israel on October 7.

Mr Heappey told Sky News: “I think that that celebration and glorification of what happened last Saturday is despicable.

“I was a soldier, now I’m a minister in defence. Never once have I celebrated the demise of my adversaries, and so even if those women who were wearing those stickers regard Israelis as their enemy, even if they want to see them remove the state of Israel, the idea that they celebrate and glorify that loss of human life is just despicable to me.

“And I’m glad police are acting and I hope those two particularly are found.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said supporting Hamas or stirring up racial or religious hatred will be “met with the full force of the law”.

Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to a Jewish secondary school in north London, the Prime Minister said: “Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation. It’s very clear under the law, the support and glorification of Hamas is illegal and those offences are punishable with up to almost 14 years in jail.

“But it’s not just about Hamas. More broadly, actions that incite violence or stir up religious hatred and racial violence are also not acceptable and that’s why, as I said, there’s no place in our society for that type of hatred and division, and it will be met with the full force of the law where it happens.”

The Metropolitan Police arrested 15 people at at a pro-Palestine march through central London on Saturday, three of whom have been charged.

Robert McKenzie, 68, was charged with intentionally causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress after he allegedly made racist comments to people gathered in Whitehall and police arrested him.

The pensioner, from Long Stratton in Norfolk, was carrying a Union flag at the time, but police have said this was “in no way” the reason for his arrest.

Aldib Nour, 20, was charged with possession of a knife in a public place after being arrested on King Charles Street.

Both Mr Nour and Mr McKenzie have been bailed and will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on November 2.

Ibrahim Hlaiyil, 38, was charged with failing to comply with a requirement to remove a face covering and was bailed to appear at the same court on November 13.

A 20-year-old man was fined for throwing a firework in a public place.

Three youths have been referred to Youth Offending Teams for, respectively, assaulting an emergency worker, possession of a firework in a public place and failing to comply with a requirement to remove a face covering.

Detectives are continuing to make inquiries about three men arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker and another arrested on suspicion of threatening behaviour.

They have all been bailed, and a man arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage to a police vehicle has been released under investigation.

No further action has been taken against three people arrested at the demonstration.

Anyone who knows the identity of the women who wore the paraglider photos can contact the Metropolitan Police on 101 or @MetCC, giving the reference 3077/15oct.

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