THOUSANDS of protesters took to the streets of Paris yesterday to condemn the deadly Israeli assault on Gaza.
Organisers said that an estimated 25,000 protesters joined the march from Denfert-Rochereau to Les Invalides. Police estimated the figure at 14,500.
The were protesting against the Israeli attacks on Gaza, in which more than 700 Palestinians have so far died. A total 34 Israelis have also died.
Security was tight along the route, with more than 1,000 uniformed and plain-clothed officers on duty, after two illegal parades in Paris at the weekend descended into violence.
Authorities allowed last night’s march, which called for “a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis”, to go ahead despite the weekend’s violence, and trouble at earlier marches.
As organisers intended, the march passed off peacefully, with the few moments of friction quickly dealt with by police officers, often to the sound of applause from marchers, AFP reporters on the scene reported.
Many marchers, chanting pro-Palestinian slogans, carried Palestinian flags and wore keffiehs. Others wore “Boycott Israel” stickers.
They were joined by a number of politicians, including former minister Dominique Voynet, the Left Party’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and several Socialist MPs, as well as a number of Jews also horrified at the attacks.
“We want to talk politics, not Sarcelles or Barbès. We want to prove that we are responsible people,” said Tawfiq Tahami, president of the Association France Palestine Solidarité, which was among the parade’s organisers.
Marches around France also passed off peacefully.
"No to the Zionist barbarism," chanted some supporters in Toulouse, while in Bordeaux, a minute of silence was observed "in homage to the martyrs".
In Lyon, between 1500 and 2,000 people took to the streets. Some lay on the ground "to symbolise the victims of the Israeli offensive," said Lila Mami, vice-president of Palestine 69.
A similar number of protesters marched in Lille, while in Strasbourg, 100 people wore white, holding a sign with the name of a child killed in Gaza.
Later in the evening, in the Marais area of Paris, 16 people, mostly youths, were arrested on suspicion of making anti-Semitic comments in a restaurant near the Jewish Quarter of the Rue des Rosiers, a police source told Le Parisien.