Thousands to march in London pro-Palestinian protest as Gaza anticipates invasion

The Met will send more than 1,000 officers to police the demonstration in London Credit: AP

Thousands of people are expected to march in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London today as police warn anyone showing support for Hamas or deviating from the route could face arrest.

The Metropolitan Police Service will deploy more than 1,000 officers to police the demonstration, in which people will be marching in solidarity with Palestine and demanding Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land, amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

The march will begin at Portland Place at 12pm before finishing at Whitehall at around 3pm.

On Friday evening, the Met warned a Section 12 has been authorised from midday on Saturday in the relevant area.

In a statement on Friday, the Met said: “We are expecting thousands of people to travel to central London tomorrow to make their voices heard in a March for Palestine.

“More than 1,000 officers will be on duty to police the march, in addition to officers across the capital, and will work alongside stewards and organisers.”

People take part in a Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration in Piccadilly Circus on October 9 Credit: PA

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, who is responsible for policing in London this weekend, said: “Our role as an independent and impartial service is to balance the right to lawful protest with potential disruption to Londoners.

“People do not have the right to incite violence or hatred. The law is clear that support for proscribed organisations is illegal.

“Anyone with a flag in support of Hamas or any other proscribed terrorist organisation will be arrested.

“We will not tolerate the celebration of terrorism or death, or tolerate anyone inciting violence.”

Palestinians have begun a mass exodus from northern Gaza after Israel’s military told them to evacuate ahead of an expected ground invasion.

Israel has warned 1.1 million Palestinians living in north Gaza to evacuate south, and thousands have been fleeing by vehicle or on foot.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK was doing “everything we can to ensure the security of British citizens” after the Defence Secretary said it seemed “very likely” there are British hostages in Gaza.

The UK government had struggled to arrange repatriation flights from Israel - but a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said on Friday evening a government chartered flight has left Israel with further flights expected to leave in the coming days.

The FCDO did not confirm where the flight was due to land.

Three Britons are confirmed to have lost their lives during the weekend’s assault on Israel, but reports have suggested at least 17 could be among the casualties.

The war has claimed at least 2,800 lives on both sides since Hamas launched an incursion on October 7, with Israel placing the 25-mile Gaza Strip under siege and subjecting it to a torrent of retaliatory air strikes.

Sharon Lifschitz and Noam Sagi - two London-based British Israelis whose parents are among the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza Credit: PA

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf called for an end to deaths in Gaza and for the international community to “step up”, amid the evacuation orders.

Mr Yousaf said there was “no justification for the death of innocent men, women and children”.

His in-laws are trapped in Gaza, and his wife Nadia El-Nakla has spoken of her torment at the prospect of her relatives living in a refugee camp with no food or water.

The march on Saturday follows calls from Mr Sunak on Israel to “protect ordinary Palestinians and facilitate humanitarian aid” and from the Archbishop of Canterbury for a Gaza humanitarian corridor.

Archbishop Justin Welby said in a statement: “I plead that the sins of Hamas are not borne by the citizens of Gaza, who themselves have faced such suffering over many decades.

“The price of evil cannot be paid by the innocent. Civilians cannot bear the costs of terrorists.”

A Section 12 will be in force from midday covering the demonstration route, which starts at Portland Place and finishes in Whitehall.

Palestinians inspect the rubble of buildings hit by an Israeli airstrike at Al Shati Refugee Camp Credit: Hatem Moussa/AP

Speaking on Friday, Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor added: “Whilst people have the right to protest, they do not have the right to incite violence, they do not have the right to incite hatred and they do not have the right to commit criminal offences and we will robustly police that situation.”

Waving a proscribed flag in support of Hamas or other proscribed organisations at the protest will be an offence.

At the same briefing, Mr Taylor told of a “massive increase” in antisemitic crime and incidents since the Israel-Hamas conflict.

He said the force has seen an increase in Islamophobic incidents as well, “but nothing like the scale of the increase in antisemitism”.

Mr Sunak condemned the “disgusting rise” in antisemitism.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said intimidating behaviour and inciting violence or hatred will not be tolerated and will instead be met “with the full force of the law”.

No 10 announced £3 million in extra funding will be given to provide the Jewish community with additional protection, with strengthened security at schools and synagogues.

RFA Argus has been sent to the eastern Mediterranean to support Israel and humanitarian efforts Credit: LPhot Rory Arnold/PA

A small number of schools in north London were closed due to safety fears.

Contractors working at Ateres Beis Yaakov primary school in Hendon, which was closed on Friday, said they had been asked to “raise the fence” to make it harder for people to “reach over”.

Gates were locked at Menorah High School and Torah Vodaas Primary School in Barnet on Friday, with no staff or pupils seen on site.

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