United Kingdom

Violence erupts in London as pro-Palestine activists clash with police

Violence erupted in London yesterday as pro-Palestine protesters clashed with police during a demonstration against the continued conflict in the Middle East.

Dozens more people, including as many as ten children, have been killed overnight as Israel and Hamas fired retaliatory missile strikes, with the UN's Security Council due to meet today to discuss the continuing crisis. 

Activists waving flags, banners and placards, featuring messages including 'Hands Off Jerusalem', took to the streets of the English capital on Tuesday to call for an end to the growing unrest.

Former Labour Jeremy Corbyn was also in attendance, addressing thousands of demonstrators who gathered in the city.

But it is understood tensions flared when police attempted to escort away a small group of pro-Israel counter-protesters.

At one point, footage appears to show a demonstrator seemingly deliberately landing on top of two counter-protesters.

Apparently jumping down from above the activist plants both feet on the back and neck of the two counter-protesters before being accosted by officers. 

The demonstration in London, held opposite Downing Street, attracted thousands following recent protests in Jerusalem against the eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah.

Supporters of Palestine attend an emergency 'Rally for Jerusalem' outside 10 Downing Street yesterday

Huge crowds gathered to protest in the capital yesterday, with a large police presence also enforced

At one point, footage appears to show a demonstrator seemingly deliberately landing on top of two counter-protesters.

Apparently jumping down from above the activist plants both feet on the back and neck of the two counter-protesters before being accosted by officers

A Pro-Palestinian protestor holds a banner outside the Israeli Embassy in London as he awaits for a crowd of demonstrators to arrive

Former Labour Jeremy Corbyn was also in attendance, addressing thousands of demonstrators who gathered in the city.

Pictured: Video footage from Tuesday evening showed three plumes of thick, black smoke rising from a Gaza residential block as it toppled over following an Israeli air strike. A large residential tower block in Gaza has collapsed today after one of several dozen Israeli cross-border air strikes on Tuesday night, as Hamas vowed to turn Israel into 'a hell'

Pictured: People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. Hamas Islamists said they had fired 130 rockets towards Tel Aviv on Tuesday, unleashing a massive barrage on Israel's economic hub, in retaliation for an Israeli strike on 12-storey tower near Gaza's coast

It comes as officials in Gaza said 32 Palestinians - including ten children - have been killed in the latest clashes. 

The Israeli military claimed at least 16 of the dead were militants, while seven deaths have been attributed to the same family, including three children. Some may have been the result of errant Hamas missiles. 

In Israel, three women have been killed - one in her 60s and another in her 80s - during Hamas rocket attacks earlier on Tuesday, and a third victim aged 50 on Tuesday evening when a rocket hit a building in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion.

The renewed confrontation, following weeks of tensions and clashes in the contested Jerusalem, was sparked on Monday evening when Hamas - the Islamist group that rules inside Gaza - fired a barrage of missiles towards Jerusalem.   

Then on Tuesday afternoon, former U.S. President Donald Trump posted to his website, saying that America 'will always strongly support Israel's right to defend itself' as he criticised President Joe Biden over the growing crisis. 

Earlier, the White House had said Biden was being briefed on the escalating situation.    

Israel's Iron Dome defence system continued to struggle with the volume of rockets being fired from Gaza on Tuesday evening, after an Israeli air strike caused a 13-storey residential building to collapse in Gaza City.

And the mayor of the Israeli city of Lod called for army back-up to help secure the area, saying 'civil war' was breaking out as residents clashed following the funeral of an Arab man killed yesterday by a Jewish local.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier 'deplored' the deaths of the two women in Israel, adding that the country's military would 'further increase both the intensity and the rate' of its own air strikes against Gaza.

'Hamas will be hit in ways that it does not expect,' Netanyahu said, before the announcement of the third woman's death in Israel. 'We have eliminated commanders, hit many important targets and we have decided to attack harder and increase the pace of attacks.' 

The cross-border violence has been fuelled by Israel's evictions of Muslim communities living in east Jerusalem which led to angry riots breaking out on Temple Mount over the weekend, with hundreds left injured on Monday as riot police shot rubber bullets and fired tear gas at protesters. 

Police officers escort a small group of pro-Israeli counter-demonstrators during a pro-Palestinian protest outside Downing Street

Police enforcement including armed policemen arrived outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington after a pro-Palestinian demonstration

Supporters of Palestine attend an emergency 'Rally for Jerusalem' outside 10 Downing Street

Buses were surrounded by protesters, holding up signs reading 'Gaza, stop the massacre'

The demonstration in London, held opposite Downing Street, attracted thousands following recent protests in Jerusalem against the eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah

A group of people holding a Palestinian flag climbed over a London red bus during a pro-Palestinian demonstration

A group of Neturei Karta Orthodox Jews joins a protest outside Downing Street against the escalation of violence

Smoke fills the air as protesters waving Palestine flags attend the demonstration in London

Pro-Israeli people holding banners and placards gather outside Britain's PM Office

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gather to protest against Israeli air raids on Gaza Strip as police take security measures

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators holding banners and Palestinian flags gather to protest against Israeli air raids

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold up banners and signs as they gather to protest against Israeli air raids on Gaza Strip

Thousands of activists descended on the capital to call for an end to the growing violence in the Middle East

Residents of the collapsed residential block and the surrounding area had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses, and there were no reports of casualties two hours after it collapsed.

Shortly after the attack, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group said they would respond by firing rockets at Tel Aviv, which they did.

Air raid sirens and explosions were heard around the city, and the skies were lit up by the streaks of multiple interceptor missiles launched towards the incoming rockets.

Pedestrians ran for shelter, and diners streamed out of Tel Aviv restaurants while others flattened themselves on pavements as the sirens sounded.

The Israel Airports Authority said it had halted take-offs at Tel Aviv airport 'to allow defence of the nation's skies'. Video broadcast on Israeli Channel 12 television showed interceptor missiles rising above the runways.

'We are now carrying out our promise,' Hamas's armed wing said. 'The Qassam Brigades are launching their biggest rocket strike against Tel Aviv and its suburbs, with 130 rockets, in response to the enemy's targeting of residential towers.'  

The sound of the outgoing rockets could be heard in Gaza. As the rockets rose into the skies, mosques across Gaza blared with chants of 'God is great,' 'victory to Islam' and 'resistance.'

One rocket struck a bus in the central city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv. Medics said three people, including a five-year-old girl, were wounded and the bus went up in flames.

Israel said it had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza, and dispatched infantry and armour to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of the last ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks, in 2014.

More than 2,100 Gazans were killed in the seven-week war that followed, according to the Gaza health ministry, along with 73 Israelis, and thousands of homes in Gaza were razed.

Why are violent clashes taking place in Jerusalem?

When did the protests start?

From the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April, Palestinians clashed nightly with Israeli police, who put up barriers to stop evening gatherings at the walled Old City's Damascus Gate after iftar, the breaking of the daytime fast.

Palestinians saw the barriers as a restriction on their freedom to assemble. Police said they were there to maintain order.

Why did the violence flare up again?

An Israeli Supreme Court hearing was due on May 10 in a long-running legal case about whether several Palestinian families would be evicted and their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood near Damascus Gate that was given to Israeli settlers.

Some settlers have already moved into the street affected - living next door to the Palestinians facing possible removal.   

As the court hearing neared, Palestinians and left-wing Israelis began holding larger demonstrations, saying more evictions could cause a domino effect throughout the overwhelmingly Palestinian neighbourhood.

Sheikh Jarrah also contains a site revered by religious Jews as the tomb of an ancient high priest, Simon the Just, leading to frequent tensions between Palestinian living there and religious Jews visiting it.

International attention

The case, in which a lower court ruled that the land in question belonged to Jews in East Jerusalem before the 1948 War, has gathered domestic and international attention, amid criticism of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.

On Sunday U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to his Israeli counterpart to express 'serious concerns about the potential evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood,' the White House said. read more

And United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed 'his deep concern over the continuing violence in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as the possible evictions of Palestinian families from their homes,' U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Sunday.

What next?

On Sunday the Supreme Court hearing on the evictions was postponed, pushing at least one flashpoint past the end of Ramadan and allowing more time for a resolution. A new session will be scheduled within 30 days. read more

Monday is Jerusalem Day, Israel's annual commemoration of its capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war. The event usually sees a march through the walled Old City by Jewish pilgrims, including ultra-nationalists, which could be another flashpoint.

Why is Jerusalem so sensitive?

Politics, history and religion.

At the heart of Jerusalem's Old City is the hill known to Jews across the world as Temple Mount - the holiest site in Judaism - and to Muslims internationally as The Noble Sanctuary. It was home to the Jewish temples of antiquity. Two Muslim holy places now stand there, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam.

Christians also revere the city as the place where they believe that Jesus preached, died and was resurrected.

Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern section as a capital of a future state. Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem is unrecognized internationally.

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