Thousands take part in pro-Palestinian rally in Belfast

A small group carrying Israeli flags confronted the marchers as they arrived at the City Hall.

Thousands of people have marched through the centre of Belfast as part of a pro-Palestinian demonstration.

Insults were exchanged as a small group carrying Israeli flags confronted the rally as it arrived at the City Hall.

The protest took place against the backdrop of the deepening conflict in the Middle East as civilians continue to suffer under a total siege imposed by Israel in the wake of an unprecedented incursion by Hamas militants.

A small group carrying Israeli flags met the rally as it neared Belfast City Hall (Jonathan McCambridge/PA)

The United Nations, senior EU figures and aid agencies have all expressed alarm as many Palestinians struggle to flee ahead of a “co-ordinated” offensive in the Gaza Strip involving air, ground and naval forces.

The rally gathered at Writer’s Square in Belfast on Sunday and numbers swelled as it marched along Royal Avenue, with participants carrying flags and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans.

The PSNI mounted a significant security operation which included closing many of the main arterial roads in the city centre.

As the rally neared City Hall, a small number of people stood in front of the gates carrying Israel flags.

There were angry scenes as the two sets of demonstrators exchanged insults and police moved in to keep them apart.

Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, from the Northern Ireland Council for Racial Equality, took part in the rally in Belfast (Jonathan McCambridge/PA)

Taking part in the pro-Palestinian rally was Dr Raied Al-Wazzan from the Northern Ireland Council for Racial Equality.

He said: “We need to send a message to the Palestinian people that we support you, we are with you, we are against the bombardment of civilian people.

“We are against the blockade of Gaza.

“We want people to live an equal life, we want them to have the same rights as everyone else.”

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan was among the marchers (Jonathan McCambridge/PA)

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan was among the marchers at the front of the rally.

Earlier, he had unveiled a mural in west Belfast in support of Palestinians.

Speaking at this event he said: “One would be forgiven for thinking it is the Israelis who are living under occupation, rather than the Palestinians.”

He added: “It is clear to all of us here that those governments that demand the implementation of international law in other conflicts are totally silent when Palestinians are being slaughtered in their thousands.

“Israel has been given a carte blanche to act outside international law and the basic rules of warfare.

“The response of the international community in the west has been shameful.

“What is happening in Palestine today is the outworking of 75 years of brutal occupation.

“The Israelis cannot and will not inflict a military defeat on the desire of Palestinians to be free and to have their own independent Palestinian state.”

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