WASHINGTON (AP) — From Washington to Milan to Paris, tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched Saturday, calling for a halt to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
The marches reflected growing disquiet about the mounting civilian casualty toll and suffering from the Israel-Hamas war. Protesters, particularly in countries with large Muslim populations, including the U.S., U.K. and France, expressed disillusionment with their governments for supporting Israel while its bombardments of hospitals and residential areas in the Gaza strip intensify.
The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war has reached 9,448, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. In Israel, more than 1,400 people have been killed, most of them in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that started the war.
In the U.S., thousands converged on the nation’s capital to protest the Biden administration’s support of Israel and its continued military campaign in Gaza. “Palestine will be free,” demonstrators donning black and white keffiyehs chanted as an enormous Palestinian flag was unfurled by a crowd that filled Pennsylvania Avenue — the street leading up to the White House.
Leveling direct criticism of President Joe Biden, Renad Dayem of Cleveland said she made the trip with her family so her children would know “the Palestinian people are resilient — and we want a leader who won’t be a puppet to the Israeli government.”
Dozens of small white body bags with the names of children killed by Israeli missiles lined the street and demonstrators held signs calling for an immediate cease-fire.
Protesters held signs and banners with messages such as “Biden betrays us” and “In November we remember,” highlighting how the issue could be a factor in Biden’s reelection bid.
Jinane Ennasri, a 27 year-old New York resident, said the Biden administration’s support of Israel despite the thousands of Palestinian deaths has made her rethink voting in the 2024 presidential election, where Biden will likely face GOP front-runner Donald Trump. “We thought he would represent us, but he doesn’t,” she said, ”and our generation is not afraid to put elected officials in their place.”
Ennasri, like many demonstrators, said they would likely sit out the 2024 election.
Biden was in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for the weekend and didn’t comment on the protests. In a brief exchange with reporters as he left St. Edmond Roman Catholic Church on Saturday, he suggested there has been some forward movement in the U.S efforts to persuade Israel to agree to a humanitarian pause, answering “yes” when asked if there was progress.
Steve Strauss, a 73 year-old Baltimore resident, said he is one of many Jewish people protesting Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “They are trying to kill as many Palestinians as they can get away with,” Strauss said. ”I am here to stand up and be a voice for the people who are oppressed.”
In Paris, several thousand protesters called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and some shouted “Israel, assassin!”
Banners on a sound-system truck at the Paris march through rain-dampened streets read: “Stop the massacre in Gaza.” Demonstrators, many carrying Palestinian flags, chanted “Palestine will live, Palestine will win.”
Demonstrators also took aim at French President Emmanuel Macron, chanting “Macron, accomplice.”
Paris’ police chief authorized the march from République to Nation, two large plazas in eastern Paris, but vowed that any behavior deemed antisemitic or sympathetic to terrorism would not be tolerated.
Multiple countries in Europe have reported increasing antisemitic attacks and incidents since Oct. 7.
In an attack Saturday, an assailant knocked on the door of a Jewish woman in the French city of Lyon and, when she opened, said “Hello” before stabbing her twice in the stomach, according to the woman’s lawyer, Stéphane Drai, who spoke to broadcaster BFM. He said police also found a swastika on the woman’s door. The woman was being treated in a hospital and her life was not in danger, the lawyer said.
At the London rally, the Metropolitan Police said its officers made 11 arrests, including one on a terrorism charge for displaying a placard that could incite hatred. The police force had forewarned that it would also monitor social media and use facial recognition to spot criminal behavior.
On Friday, two women who attended a pro-Palestinian march three weeks ago were charged under the U.K.’s Terrorism Act for displaying images on their clothing of paragliders. In its Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel, Hamas employed paragliders to get some fighters across the border between Gaza and southern Israel. Prosecutors said the images aroused suspicion they were supporters of Hamas, which U.K. authorities regard as a terrorist group.
In Berlin, around 1,000 police officers were deployed to ensure order after previous pro-Palestinian protests turned violent. German news agency dpa reported that about 6,000 protesters marched through the center of the German capital. Police banned any kind of public or written statements that are antisemitic, anti-Israeli or glorify violence or terror. Several thousand protesters also marched through the west German city of Duesseldorf.
In Romania’s capital, hundreds gathered in central Bucharest, many waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Save the children from Gaza.”
At a rally by several thousand people in Milan, Matteo Salvini, a deputy prime minister, spoke out against antisemitism, calling it “a cancer, a virulent plague, something disgusting.’’
In another part of Milan, a pro-Palestinian rally drew about 4,000 people and there was also a march by several thousand in Rome. Yara Abushab, a 22-year-old medical student from Gaza University, who has been in Italy since Oct. 1, was among the participants and described Oct. 7 as a watershed for her.
“They bombed my university, my hospital. I lost a lot of loved ones and right now the last time I heard something from my family was a week ago,” she said. “The situation is indescribable.”
Cetinic reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, Stephen McGrath in Bucharest, Romania, Brian Melley in London, Frances D’Emilio and Silvia Stellacci in Rome, and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.