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by Bethany Rielly
in central London
EMERGENCY rallies were held today in London and Manchester to demand the government hold Israel to account for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Hundreds gathered outside Downing Street in central London, waving Palestinian flags and placards reading “save al-Aqsa,” and “we can’t breathe since 1948.”
The protests are in solidarity with Palestinian families in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah who face imminent eviction from their homes to make way for illegal settlers following an Israeli court order last weekend.
Nightly protests sparked by the court order have been met with brutal violence from Israeli soldiers with at least 80 injured on Saturday night, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
The violence erupted as 90,000 people gathered for night-time prayers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam.
It came after riot police stormed the mosque compound on Friday night, wounding about 200 people in the process.
Footage circulated online showed Israeli soldiers dragging one young Palestinian woman by her hijab.
Protesters were hit with rubber-coated steel bullets and sprayed with chemically enhanced sewage water and tear gas.
The protest in London was organised by the Palestinian Forum and Muslim Association of Britain (MAB).
MAB president Raghad Altikriti told the Star: “At this holiest time of the year, when people should be able to worship peacefully, they are targeted the most.
“[They are] thrown out of their homes and replaced with Israeli settlers.
“Here in the West we claim we are people who care about human rights and yet our governments are silent.
“Not only silent but are supporting and having arms deals with this entity,” he said.
The passionate protest was attended by rapper Lowkey, a long-standing supporter of Palestine.
Crowds also gathered in Piccadilly in Manchester.
Ms Altikriti said that it was unacceptable that the violence in Sheikh Jarrah has been taking place just a stone’s throw away from the British consulate, but there has been little condemnation from the government.
She said: “The only way is to come out in our thousands and pressure the government and say we don’t want you to be part of oppressing the Palestinian people.”
More protests are planned this week with Stop the War coalition and friends of al-Aqsa staging an emergency demo outside Downing Street on Tuesday.
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