Several thousand people attended a demonstration in support of Palestine in Dublin city centre on Saturday, amid rising tensions and violence in Gaza in recent weeks.
A large number of demonstrators gathered on O’Connell Street, before marching to the Israeli embassy on Pembroke Road in Ballsbridge.
By the time the crowd reached the embassy it had grown from hundreds to thousands of protesters, many waving Palestinian flags.
While there was widespread wearing of face coverings, social distancing measures were often impossible given the numbers involved in the demonstration.
Ihab Ijawi (54), whose family was forced to leave Palestine, said it was “very stressful” watching news of children and families “being destroyed” in the current conflict.
Mr Ijawi, who was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and has lived in Ireland for nearly 20 years, said he was “concerned about every person in Palestine”.
“Settlers are taking the Palestinians’ homes which under the United Nations law should not be allowed and must not be allowed,” he told The Irish Times.
“I know that the Irish people are really very supportive of the Palestinian issue, because they have been in this issue for a long period of time, 800 years, so they understand,” he said.
There was a small Garda presence at the protest, which heard chants of “Free Palestine” from the crowd, and calls to boycott Israel.
A number of People Before Profit TDs attended the march, including Bríd Smith and Richard Boyd Barrett, who called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in a speech at the protest.
Mr Boyd Barrett said the large turnout was an “enormous show of support” for Palestine, and showed Irish people were “horrified at what Israel is doing”.
“Everybody is wearing their masks, and the organisers went out of their way to encourage people to wear their masks and stay compliant,” he later told The Irish Times.
It was “understandable” that people wanted to protest, despite Covid-19 restrictions on large gatherings. “When children are being killed . . . People’s feelings overwhelm them, so I can understand that,” he said.
The Israeli embassy was not available for comment on Saturday.
At an Oireachtas committee hearing earlier this week, Ophir Kariv, Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, accused some Irish politicians of spewing “hate” towards the Jewish state.
Mr Kariv told the committee that Israel was willing to go “all the way” to reach a “final agreement” to end its conflict with Palestinians. However, the ambassador said his country would continue to defend its citizens during the current surge in bloodshed between Israel and neighbouring Gaza-strip militants.
Posts on social media showed other sizeable demonstrations taking place in Belfast, Cork and Galway.
In response to the escalating levels of violence in the region, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney tweeted on Saturday: “32 children killed since Monday in #Gaza by Israeli fire - that’s approx 1/4 of all fatalities - It’s not acceptable! Israel has int. legal obligation to protect children in conflict & r not doing so! #Ireland will speak forcefully again at UNSC tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, other solidarity rallies have taken place in different cities around the world. In central London, hundreds of people marched in solidarity with the people of Palestine amid the ongoing conflict.
Organisers said “immediate action” was needed by the UK government to help end the “brutal” violence against the Palestinian people.
Demonstrators there arrived at Hyde Park near Marble Arch before marching to the Israeli embassy, holding banners and chanting.
Among those expected to address the protest are former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Zarah Sultana.
The demonstration in London was organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Stop The War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Muslim Association of Britain.
A spokesperson for the organisers of this protest said: “It is vital that the UK government takes immediate action.
“It must stop allowing Israel’s brutal violence against and oppression of the Palestinian people to go unpunished.
“The bombardment of Gaza which is killing civilians including children is a war crime.
“The UK Government is complicit in these acts as long as it continues to offer Israel military, diplomatic and financial support.”
Greek police fired tear gas and water cannon on Saturday to disperse pro-Palestinian demonstrators protesting in Athens against Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Hundreds of people shouting “Freedom to Palestine” and waving Palestinian flags marched to the Israeli embassy, which was cordoned off by police buses.
The demonstration in the Greek capital follows similar protests in cities around the world following days of intense conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
A further several thousand people marched in Sydney and hundreds in Melbourne on Saturday.
In Sydney, protesters gathered at Town Hall to march through the streets, chanting slogans such as “Free, free Palestine” and “Free, free Gaza”.
“I see an uprising,” said one protester in Sydney, Walla Abu-Eid. “I see people who are no longer going to remain silent. People who are fed up, people who are responding to oppression and violence by standing up for themselves.”
In Melbourne, protesters gathered at the State Library of Victoria and then marched to Parliament House, many carrying “Free Palestine” posters.
At least 132 people have been killed in Gaza since Monday, including 32 children and 21 women, Palestinian medical officials said.
Eight people have been killed in Israel, including six civilians, among them two children, Israeli authorities said. – Additional reporting PA/Reuters