Protesters in Paris denounce the Palestinian death toll in the Gaza conflict

There was an air of quiet outrage among the small crowd protesting in Paris on Sunday over the 11-day flare-up of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this month, in which at least 260 people were killed, most of them Palestinians.

The meeting at Place de la République in the east of Paris turned out to be much smaller than the crowd at the same location the previous day.

The protests came after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect Friday. But protesters doubted that this would do anything to prevent repeated bouts of violence in the future.

“I think [the Israeli government] makes it seem like the fighting is over so they can strike harder in the future, ” said Rania, 15, who had come to the protest with a group from the Boulogne-Billancourt suburb on the other side of the Paris region. from friends of the same age.

“It feels very good to be here to support those in need,” said Rania. At the same time, she went on, protesting was a “very sad” experience, because “no country deserves to go through what the Palestinians have been through; it is unacceptable”.

Rania added that she called for a solution to the conflict rather than re-emerging the status quo as the ceasefire continues: such a solution would be “beneficial to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis,” stressed. they.

Like yesterday’s protest, this was a “static” demonstration after the Paris police banned a planned march through East Paris the previous weekend. French authorities feared a repetition of the ugly scenes of protests during the 2014 Gaza conflict, in which synagogues were attacked and chants of “death to Jews”.

Protesters in Paris on Sunday underlined that they support the Palestinian people while denying anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments.

“We are not against Israel; we are against the mistreatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government, ”said Cathy, 34, who brought her children to Sunday’s demonstration. “I understand they fought against Hamas, but they also killed many innocent people, including many children,” Cathy continued.

At least 248 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes during this month’s conflict, including 66 children. Hamas rocket attacks killed 12 people in Israel, including a child; Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system blocked many salvos.

The Israeli military said during the conflict that it did its utmost to minimize the number of civilian casualties when it responded to Hamas missile attacks from Gaza, but that the Islamist militant group – classified by the EU and the US as a terrorist organization – put them in in fact used as human shields.

Protesters perform a traditional Palestinian dance on May 23, 2021 during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at Place de la République in eastern Paris. © Tom Wheeldon, France 24

Cathy also attended the banned rally last week, expressing her anger at the French government for banning it: “It was not normal to be prevented from protesting like this; other demonstrations have continued this year. “

Like Rania, Cathy expressed her skepticism that the ceasefire will change the situation in the long run: “There are always truces, but then the fighting starts again later,” she said.

She was also angry that “France did not condemn what was happening” – a common sentiment among Sunday’s protesters.

At the height of last week’s fighting, the Élysée Palace said French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences on “the many Palestinian civilian losses resulting from military operations and ongoing clashes with Israel” and “unshakable commitment to the security of Israel and Israel. the right to defend oneself in line with international law ”.

Macron and other national leaders “have said for years that they want an end to the conflict, but there is never anything concrete; it’s really a great silence ”and“ one of the reasons I’m protesting is to try to break that silence, ”said Sanah, a young protester in Place de la République.

“It is not normal in the 21st century to demonstrate for the freedom of a nation,” she continued.

Myriam, 26, used the exact same phrase to describe the deaths of the 66 Palestinian children in Gaza: “It’s not normal; it’s not human to do that, ”she said. “It really upset me.”

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