Pro-Palestinian rallies outside Downing St – as PM attacks 'barbaric acts' of Hamas 'terrorists'

By John Mercury October 10, 2023

Pro-Palestinian rallies have been held outside the Israeli embassy and Downing Street, with Rishi Sunak hitting out at Hamas during a visit to a synagogue.

An estimated 5,000 people had gathered in Kensington on Monday evening – with some shouting “Free Palestine” and “Israel is a terrorist state”.

The Metropolitan Police says it is aware of suspected criminal damage, and is looking “to locate and arrest those suspected of being involved in any criminal activity”.

As the evening progressed, a smaller, peaceful pro-Palestinian protest of about 250 people was held outside Downing Street – with a significant police presence nearby.

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PM: ‘I stand with Israel’

It came as the prime minister attended a prayer service for Israel in north London – and said: “I wanted to come here and stand with you in this hour of grief as we mourn the victims of an utterly abhorrent act of terror.

“To stand with you in this hour of prayer as we think of those held hostage, and your friends and loved ones taking refuge in bomb shelters or risking their lives on the frontline.”

Mr Sunak went on to say that Hamas “are not militants, are not freedom fighters, they are terrorists”.

“Their barbaric acts are acts of evil… teenagers at a festival of peace gunned down in cold blood. Innocent men, women and children raped, abducted, slaughtered. Even a Holocaust survivor taken away as a captive.”

The prime minister went on to say there was “no question of balance” – and he stood with Israel.

In Westminster earlier, hundreds of people also attended a Jewish community vigil – with security minister Tom Tugendhat and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy among the speakers.

There were chants of “let our children go” by the crowd, and organisers claimed up to 2,000 people were in attendance.

Many held photos of Noa Argamani, an Israeli woman who was kidnapped by Hamas militants. She was one of dozens of hostages held by the group.

Vigils for Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies have been held in London
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Vigils for Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies have been held in London

Over in west London, an estimated 5,000 people gathered near the Israeli embassy.

Parts of the building were boarded up and a huge police presence was in attendance.

A Palestinian flag was draped on top of a lamppost nearby, with a firework fired towards the embassy.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign, one of the groups behind the demonstration, said: “The offensive launched from Gaza can only be understood in the context of Israel’s ongoing, decades-long, military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land and imposition of a system of oppression that meets the legal definition of apartheid.

“This is the context in which we need to understand the cycle of violence.

“If violence is to end, both that of the oppressor and the oppressed, then we must all take action to end the root cause – Israeli apartheid and oppression of Palestinians.”

Israel under ‘huge’ rocket barrage – live updates

Police ‘step up patrols’

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has joined Metropolitan Police officers on a patrol in Golders Green – an area of north London with a significant Jewish population.

It came hours after a kosher restaurant in the area had its window smashed and cash register stolen, while “Free Palestine” was graffitied on a nearby railway bridge.

The graffiti is being investigated as a potential hate crime by the British Transport Police, with local authorities describing it as a “deliberate attempt to intimidate the Jewish community”.

A vandalised Kosher restaurant is seen near a bridge with 'Free Palestine' painted on it, in Golders Green in London, Britain, October 9, 2023. REUTERS/Anna Gordon
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Police have said they are investigating the attack

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the home secretary confirmed she is writing to police forces across England and Wales – “urging them to use all their powers to prevent disorder and distress”.

“The UK stands with Israel in her fight against the barbaric attack by Hamas terrorists. There is no place on British streets for demonstrations that glorify terrorism,” she wrote.

“We must all confront the evil of antisemitism whenever and wherever we encounter it.”

Earlier, Ms Braverman had said: “The barbaric attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists who have massacred civilians and kidnapped the most vulnerable, including the elderly, women and children, is truly sickening.”

Communities minister Lee Rowley has urged protesters not to attempt to glorify Hamas’s attack on Israel.

He told Sky News that Hamas has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK – and while there is a right to protest, there is not a right to glorify terrorism.

Rishi Sunak has hosted an emergency COBRA meeting on the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza.

Read more:
Haunting messages left by Israelis taken hostage
How attack caught Israel off guard
What is Hamas, and why is it in conflict?

A Tube train bridge, branded with 'Free Palestine' graffiti, is seen in in Golders Green, London, Britain, October 9, 2023. REUTERS/Anna Gordon

Number 10 has said it would be “utterly despicable” for anyone to use the events in the Middle East as a “pretext” to threaten or attack Jewish communities in Britain.

Greater Manchester Police has also deployed additional officers to key locations in a bid to step up the protection of communities and respond to any incidents.

Superintendent Rachael Harrison said: “This is an extremely worrying time for some of our communities and our thoughts are with those who are affected.

“We are doing everything we can to keep people safe and ensure they feel reassured by our presence.”

Danny Darlington, Bernard Cowan and Nathanel Young
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Danny Darlington, Bernard Cowan and Nathanel Young have died

Grieving families have paid tribute to British nationals “murdered” in Israel over the weekend.

They have been named as Bernard Cowan, Danny Darlington and Nathanel Young.

More than 10 Britons are feared dead or missing in the country, Sky News understands.

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