Pro-Palestinian demonstrators rally in France, Britain
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Pro-Palestinian demonstrators rally in France, Britain

Protesters in London called on main opposition party leader Keir Starmer to back a ceasefire.
Protesters in London called on main opposition party leader Keir Starmer to back a ceasefire.

PARIS - Thousands of protesters took part in rallies across France and Britain on Saturday calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza war.

Several thousand people marched through central Paris, in torrential rain, behind a banner proclaiming "Halt the massacre in Gaza and West Bank, immediate ceasefire".

"France must immediately call for a ceasefire so that the guns go silent," said CGT union secretary general Sophie Binet, one of several union leaders to speak at the rally.

Rallies were held in dozens of towns across France, Binet added.

In Marseille, AFP saw several hundred people stage a minute's silence for Palestinian victims of the war. In Toulouse, more than 1,200 people took part in a march, according to police.

Rallies have been held across Europe since the unprecedented October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel unleashed the latest Gaza war.

Israel says that Hamas killed more than 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and took 239 hostage.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that more than 12,000 people have died in the Palestinian territory in Israel's military response.

Last Saturday saw more than 300,000 people stage a pro-Palestinian march in London. Smaller protests were held this week with one targeting an office where main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer holds meetings.

Protesters there waved Palestinian flags and chanted "Ceasefire now".

Some held placards reading "Stop the war in Gaza" and "Starmer -- blood on your hands" amid a heavy police presence in the Camden area of north London.

"We here to basically put pressure on the UK government, and on Keir Starmer specifically as the leader of the Labour Party to pressure the Israeli government for a ceasefire," said Aziz, a 26-year-old consultant originally from Jordan.

Starmer -- whose party is predicted to win an election expected next year -- has refused to call for a permanent ceasefire, sparking a string of resignations from his top team.

Instead, the former human rights lawyer has called for a humanitarian pause to Israel's bombardment to allow aid in for the 2.4 million population.

One protester at the London event, Nicoleta, 36, held a placard reading "Bombing hospitals is a crime".

"Because I'm a health care provider I'm here to defend the hospitals, the innocent civilians, the children in incubators," she said.

"We need a ceasefire and need peace negotiations and an end to the occupation," she added.

The rally was one of many smaller protests organised nationwide by the Stop The War Coalition.

London police said on Saturday they had now made 386 arrests since the October 7 attacks.

Most -- 253 -- were linked to protests with 125 for "offences in communities" and the remaining eight were "terrorism related", the force said.

Showing support for Hamas is an offence as the organisation is proscribed in the UK as a terrorist group.

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