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Thousands take to central London for demonstration ‘in solidarity with Israel’

Thousands of people took to central London on Sunday afternoon for a “stand with Israeli” rally to mark 100 days since Hamas launched its attack.

Demonstrators demanded the release of hostages kidnapped by Hamas and held posters with pictures of some of those being held by the group, which has been designated a terrorist organsation in the UK. Others held signs reading: “100 days in hell”.

Crowds chanted “bring them home now” and cheered as an organiser declared on stage that he has “never been prouder to be Jewish”.

Some people brandished Iranian flags, depicting a sun and lion in the centre, which one man said represented opposition to the Iranian government.

The crowd during a pro-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square, London. Picture date: Sunday January 14, 2024. (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)
The crowd during a pro-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square, London. Picture date: Sunday January 14, 2024. (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)

People waited in line to get their bags searched before entering the rally, at Trafalgar Square, and barricades were set up around the perimeter, lined by police officers and security guards.

Events were also held across Israel on Sunday to mark the grim milestone, with the war showing no signs of abating.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says over 23,000 people have been killed in the territory since Hamas’s terrorist attack on 7 October which killed some 1,200 people.

Crowds chanted ‘bring them home now’ (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)
Crowds chanted ‘bring them home now’ (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)

Some 60,000 more Gazans have been injured amid Israeli repeated and heavy bombing of the area.

Lord Eric Pickles, the UK special envoy for post-holocaust issues, was among those who attended the protest in London.

He described himself as an “unapologetic Zionist” who was proud to stand with Israel.

The former Conservative cabinet minister accused those who took part in a pro-Palestine march on Saturday of being “happy to walk with people who are antisemitic”.

Protesters in Trafalgar Square, London (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)
Protesters in Trafalgar Square, London (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)

However he added that he believed the “overwhelming majority” of those who went on the march were not antisemitic. Suella Braverman, the former UK home secretary, also attended.

Israeli ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely thanked the crowd for “100 days of consistent support” and demanded the release of all hostages.

As Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza continues, around half of the territory’s buildings have been damaged or destroyed. A quarter of its population faces “catastrophic hunger and starvation.”

A man draped in the Israel flag flies the Union Jack (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)
A man draped in the Israel flag flies the Union Jack (Jeff Moore/PA Wire)

Less than half of its hospitals remain even partially functioning and over two-thirds of school buildings have been damaged.

Israel faces an ongoing case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) put forward by South Africa accusing the country of ‘genocide’ over the handling of its war in Gaza.

In an ICJ hearing on Thursday, officials representing South Africa said that Israel’s “genocidal intent” was evident “from the way in which [its] military attack is being conducted”.

Israel rejected the argument, stating South Africa presented “a sweeping counter-factual description” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Lord David Cameron, the UK foreign secretary and Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health minister, both dismissed the genocide claim while conducting interviews on Sunday morning.

Lord Cameron has said it is “nonsense” to suggest Israel has the intent to commit genocide.

Asked by Sky News Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips if Israel has a case to answer in the International Court of Justice, Lord Cameron said: “No, I absolutely don’t. I think the South African Action is wrong, I think it is unhelpful, I think it shouldn’t be happening.

Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building after it was struck by an Israeli airstrike (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building after it was struck by an Israeli airstrike (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“Now of course I am not a lawyer, but they are talking here about genocide, they are taking this case on the basis on genocide and to prove that you have got to prove that there was intent.

“I take the view that Israel is acting in self defence after the appalling attack on October 7.”

Mr Streeting said described South Africa’s claim as a “distraction” in an interview also with Mr Phillips.

He said: “I think it’s a distraction from what needs to happen, which is the diplomatic heavy lifting to bring about an end to this conflict.”

However, he said that the South African government is “perfectly entitled” to bring the case to the ICJ, and the court can “weigh up” the evidence.

This article was amended on the day of publication. An early version inaccurately reported that the Hamas attack on 7 October killed some 12,000 people, when it should have said some 1,200.