Angry demonstrators last night burned an Israeli flag in front of Birmingham shoppers in protest at the bombing of the Gaza Strip which has left dozens of civilians dead.
The rally drew a crowd of up to 700 placard-waving supporters calling for a halt to the violence, chanting “free Palestine” and waving the state’s flag. They held aloft a bloodied doll representing the deaths of children during three days of air strikes by Israeli jets.
One of those at the rally, in High Street, was Mohammed Balousha, a relative of five young girls killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.
Mr Balousha, aged 30, said his cousins, aged from two weeks old to 14, lost their lives when Israel’s forces targeted a mosque near their home in Jabalya, one of the territory’s largest refugee camps. He was told the news last night in a phone call with his brother in Gaza.
Mr Balousha said: “The Israelis were bombing a mosque near the house and the house was destroyed. We saw pictures on Palestine television of them lifting one of the surviving girls off the rubble and beneath her were some of her younger sisters, who had died. I think they were asleep at the time. It’s awful.”
The rally was one of a number across the UK and Europe calling for a halt to Israel’s attacks, which have so far killed 325 Palestinians. Speakers at the Birmingham demonstration included Respect Party councillor Salma Yaqoob who has called for the British government to condemn Israel.
Coun Yaqoob said: “This is a measure of the hurt that has been caused by Israel not just to Palestinians and muslims but to people of all faiths in Birmingham.
“The pictures that people are watching on the TV are absolutely horrendous.
“Israel is bombing urban areas and children are being killed. The British government must immediately tell Israel to stop, and condemn their actions. What they have said is not enough.”
But the Israeli government has said that it will continue to target the buildings of Gaza’s ruling party, Hamas, and the tanks gathering at the Israeli border have fuelled fears that a land invasion could be launched within days.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militants have continued to fire rockets into Israeli towns and have killed two people since the weekend.
Kamel Hawwash, chairman of the Midlands Palestinian Community Association, organiser of last night’s Birmingham protest said: “Israel is acting like it is above the law and the international community is allowing it to get away with it.
“The people of Birmingham have come here to show their feelings in a peaceful and democratic way.”
Taxi driver Hanif Mohammed, aged 33, from Small Heath, said: “I have come here with my cousin and brother because as a muslim and a human being I want to see the end to murder by the military of innocent people. Palestine needs to be freed and its people have got to be allowed to live without fear of bombings by jet. It is not the way to deal with terrorism.”