Hundreds rally in German cities to support Palestine, ceasefire

By Bettina Grachtrup and Christian Andresen, dpa

Hundreds of people gathered in several German cities in support of Palestinians on Saturday, as a ceasefire held following the bloody escalation between Israel and the Islamist Hamas in Gaza.

Hundreds of people gathered in several German cities in support of Palestinians on Saturday, as a ceasefire held following the bloody escalation between Israel and the Islamist Hamas in Gaza.

The rallies were held in Berlin, Frankfurt, Giessen and Leipzig, and were largely peaceful, police said in the early evening.

Hundreds of people came to a rally in Berlin, many waving Palestine flags and carrying posters that read “Free Palestine,” according to a dpa reporter.

Many chanted, “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea” at the event titled “The events in Palestine and the German media.”

Another banner, held by the Jewish Voice for Just Peace in the Middle East association, said, “Against attacks on synagogues and mosques in Berlin or Gaza.” Police reported 500 people were registered for that rally.

Another Berlin rally, to be held later, changed its focus from the initial “Protest Rally Against Israeli Aggression in Palestine,” to “Welcoming the Ceasefire,” a police spokesperson said.

In Leipzig, 200 people came to a pro-Palestine rally, police said. Attendees carried signs that read, “Freedom for Palestine,” “Stop Israeli terror” and “Jerusalem is and remains the capital of Palestine.”

In Frankfurt, up to 1,000 people gathered in the city centre at a rally held under the banner, “Immediate end to Israeli annexation and aggression.”

The event went peacefully and lasted just over three hours. Participants also kept to the pandemic-related minimum distances, the police said.

Meanwhile, in nearby Giessen, some 300 people gathered at a “Pro Israel” rally, police said, while there were 70 people at another pro-Palestinian demonstration.

A similar rally in support of Israel was held in Cologne and drew more than 100 people, observers said.

German authorities were on guard for anti-Semitic outbursts at the pro-Palestinian rallies, with larger gatherings expected in Berlin.

Some 3,000 officers were to be on duty there at the weekend to ensure public safety and crowd control, including monitoring a major demonstration on Sunday against rent prices in the German capital.

The focus, however, was on the protests that have cropped up in German cities recently as the fighting between Hamas militants and Israel intensified. The two sides struck a ceasefire that went into effect on Friday.

Some of the demonstrations have seen Israeli flag burned, Hamas flags flown and anti-Semitic slogans shouted, with skirmishes erupting between police and protesters.

The activity has prompted German politicians to demand tougher measures against acts seen as anti-Semitic.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her weekly video message that Germany’s constitution, or Basic Law, “guarantees the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

“But it leaves no room for attacks against people of other faiths, no room for violence, racism and agitation,” Merkel said.

“Anyone who brings hatred of Jews onto our streets, who expresses seditious insults, is outside of our Basic Law. Such acts must be punished consistently and have noticeable consequences for the perpetrators.”

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