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Palestine protests across Britain as Israel pushes ahead with Rafah offensive

The protests came on the same day that Israel ordered the ‘evacuation’ of central Rafah
Issue 2905
a banner reads stop arming Israel on a Palestine protest in Bristol

Hundreds on the Palestine protest in Bristol (Picture: Huw Williams)

Dozens of protests for Palestine took place on Saturday as Israeli forces signalled the approach of a full and murderous ground offensive on Rafah.

Next weekend is expected to see hundreds of thousands march in London, fuelled by rage at Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians and the Western support for Zionist crimes.

One of the day’s biggest protests was in Edinburgh where up to 2,000 took part. Around 500 joined a Glasgow demonstration.

In Liverpool, Alan reports, “800 people marched on a regional demo called by Stop the War and others. University of Liverpool students from the encampment led it.

“They were joined by workers from trade unions including Bolton Health Unison, North West region RMT and UCU.

“The students have inspired the Palestine movement in Liverpool with their courageous step in setting up the encampment.

Peta Bulmer, joint branch secretary of Liverpool University UCU said, “ I am very proud to march today with UCU activists and our branch banner. I’m even more proud that our Liverpool students have joined the worldwide student solidarity movement and built a brilliant encampment in the heart of our campus.

“The encampments mark a step-change in the movement for Palestine. Instead of watching history unfold on their phones, they are making history happen, and all trade unionists must stand by them, support them financially, and get their branch members down to the encampments.

“When we combine the power of workers with the dynamism and courage of our students, we can achieve anything.”

In Bristol, reports Huw, “Up to 1,000 marched through the city centre. As previously, the march was young, diverse and angry. The event was organised by the local Stop the War group and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

“Speakers included grandchildren of those ethnically cleansed when Israel was established and their testimony was extremely moving. A number of trade union banners were present from the NEU, CWU and trades council.

“Plans to build solidarity with the growing student camp were discussed. Those raising the attack on refugees were warmly welcomed. A very positive day for the movement in Bristol.”

There were around 500 on the streets of Sheffield and hundreds out in Derby.

About 400 activists held a rally outside the gates of UCL university in central London. The management administration shut all entrances to the university, preventing people from joining the encampment inside.

Campaigners blocked traffic and held a rally on the road, while those in the encampment stood on the other side of the gates and gave speeches.

The crowd pushed against the gates and chanted “Let us in!” And protesters defied the cops, as police officers tried to split the group into two.

One speaker said, “We are trying to ensure that every murdered Palestine is remembered. Students are organising for the liberation of Palestine.”

Laith, a former UCL student, told Socialist Worker, “The impending catastrophe of Rafah is why we are here, in solidarity against what’s happening. It’s great to be here supporting the encampment.”

Laith argued, “The more we do, the more people join, we will wear down our opposition and we will win.”

The demonstrations came as Israel told 300,000 Palestinians in southern and northern Gaza to flee once again. The Israeli military issued new and expanded “evacuation orders”—demands for people to leave their land—on Saturday.

Israel has already forced some 150,000 people out of Rafah over the past six days, according to the United Nations agency for Palestinian welfare. Israeli forces say the figure is about 300,000.

Many are in an “expanded humanitarian zone” designated by the Israeli military on the coast and to the northwest where conditions are “horrific”, according to aid workers there.

The new commands to residents suggest a coming offensive will take Israeli soldiers into the centre of Rafah, threatening appalling destruction, expulsion and mass murder.

Faten Lafi, a  Rafah resident, said, “We are forcibly leaving after the occupation army threatened us, through recorded calls and in a post published on Facebook. We are leaving because of fear and coercion. We are leaving for the unknown and there are no safe areas at all. All the areas left are unsafe.”

But the instructions also reveal Israel’s failure and weakness. The call for the evacuation of parts of northern Gaza covers areas that have already been the site of repeated Israeli military operations.

This is not the first time that the scale of Palestinian resistance has forced Israel’s forces to return to parts of Gaza where they previously announced “success” against Hamas.

  • Wednesday 15 May: Day of workplace and student action. For details go here
  • Saturday 18 May: National demonstration: assemble 12 noon, BBC Portland Place for a march to Whitehall, London. Details here
  • Saturday 8 June: Stop the War trade union conference 10am-4.30pm, Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London, N7 6PA. Details here or share at tinyurl.com/STWconf0806

Smoke-filled air and protesters with Palestine flag

Protesters took direct action and blocked the bridge (Picture: Richard Bayfield)

Palestine campaigners block Waterloo Bridge 

A coalition of groups came together to block Waterloo Bridge in London on Saturday. Youth Demand, Prayers 4 Gaza and Health Workers and Allies 4 Palestine came together in Jubilee Gardens—in front of the London Eye.

Oliver from Youth Demand told around 200 protesters that everyone must act as the Israeli state is committing a “full-scale genocide”.

“We’ve come together as a coalition because we have to be stronger. We need to have all eyes on Rafah and Gaza,” he said.

Protesters marched from Jubilee Gardens along the side of the Thames.

Chloe, from Camberwell, said she had spent the day on the streets.

“I was at a protest in south London, and now I’m here. I’ve been to every national Palestine demonstration apart from the first one. I cannot put into words how monstrous I think how our government has acted. I think the same about the opposition. I don’t think I could ever vote Labour again.

Chloe added, “Even after six months, I think the momentum of this movement is growing. I won’t stop, and everyone I know won’t stop now.”

As protesters marched across Waterloo bridge, they were met with more activists from Health Workers and Allies 4 Palestine and students from the Soas and UCL university encampments.

When both groups met, they chanted, “Down, down with occupation, up, up with liberation.” The police quickly told protesters they would make arrests if they didn’t move.

One protester told Socialist Worker as they watched the police, “Look how many of them there are for our relatively small protest. We aren’t being aggressive at all.

“We are here fighting for peace. Surely, they have better things to do than stop us marching.”

The protester added that she is tired of the hypocrisy that flows from the top. “In this country, we don’t have money for health care. The NHS is falling apart, yet there’s money to send that many police to a demonstration.”

Protesters did not stop marching despite police attempts to block one side of the bridge.

Sophie Squire


 

US will keep supplying weapons to Israel—to use in illegal ways

The US says Israel may have used American-supplied weapons in breach of international humanitarian law (IHL) during the war in Gaza.

It is “reasonable to assess” that those arms have been used in ways “inconsistent” with Israel’s obligations, says the state department.

But it added that US weapons shipments could continue.

The report was submitted to Congress on Friday. The White House-ordered review looked into how the country, along with six others, has used US-supplied arms since the start of last year.

It stated it is “reasonable to assess” that armaments supplied by the US have been used “in instances inconsistent with its IHL obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm”.

But it swiftly added that should not mean the US  halts its supplies. That’s because Israel is confronting an “extraordinary military challenge” and Israeli assurances about sticking to the legal use of US weapons were “credible and reliable”.

On Wednesday last week, Biden said that if Israel goes into Rafah, “I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah. I’ve made it clear to Bibi [Israeli prime minister Netanyahu] and the war cabinet, they’re not going to get our support, if in fact they go in these population centres.”

And US defence secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed the US had withheld a shipment of shells and bombs.

These moves are a reaction to the scale of protests in the US against the Gaza murders. They show the students’ revolt and other demonstrations have rocked Biden. 

But the day after the president’s comments the national security council spokesperson John Kirby made clear the overall situation. He said Biden is, “going to continue to provide Israel with the capabilities that it needs, all of them. But he does not want certain categories of American weapons used in a particular type of operation in a particular place.

“Everybody keeps talking about pausing weapons shipments.  Weapons shipments are still going to Israel.  They’re still getting the vast, vast majority of everything that they need to defend themselves.”

Since 7 October the US has sent over 100 arms shipments to Israel. Biden last month signed a £11 billion extra spending package to fuel the mass killings of Palestinians.


More mass graves discovered

Palestinian emergency workers continue to uncover mass graves in and around three hospitals in the Gaza Strip, months after Israeli forces laid siege to them, claiming they were being used as Hamas command centres.

Al Jazeera news said, “More than 500 bodies have been recovered with Palestinian officials saying several of them showed signs of mutilation and torture.”

Three mass graves have been found at the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, three at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and one at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya.

Mohammad Zaanin, a member of the Palestinian Civil Defence in Gaza, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that a fourth gravesite containing 42 bodies had been found at al-Shifa Hospital. The bodies were decomposed and unrecognisable, but some had IDs on them or were identified by relatives from clothing remnants.

 

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