UPDATED: Pro-Palestine demonstrators pack into Market Square as Israeli action is compared to the Holocaust

Protest against Israeli actions in Palestine, Market Square, Aylesbury
Protest against Israeli actions in Palestine, Market Square, Aylesbury

Hundreds of protesters packed into Market Square for a rally against Israeli military offensives in Palestine.

The demonstrators heard from a number of speakers who made addresses from the steps of the clock tower condemning Israeli’s latest strike in Gaza, which has killed around 600 people.

Protest against Israeli actions in Palestine, Market Square, Aylesbury, July 20 2014 PNL-140720-151813001

Protest against Israeli actions in Palestine, Market Square, Aylesbury, July 20 2014 PNL-140720-151813001

Those in the audience on Sunday included many children, some with their faces painted with the Palestinian flag. One woman carried an umbrella with the Palestinian colours.

Many people waved placards, with slogans including ‘Stop the genocide’, ‘United against facism’ and Palestine - dying to live’. Loud chants of ‘Stop the killing, stop the crime, free free Palestine’ interjected the speeches.

A collection was carried out which raised £7,780 which will go to Palestinian aid organisations.

Mr Amjad, vice-president of the mosque and a human rights lawyer by profession, compared Israel’s actions against Palestinians to those of the Nazis against Jews.

He said: “The world has failed Palestine for over 60 years.

“For 60 years Israel has engaged in the systematic slaughter of Palestinians. Their brutal army has unloaded its weapons on the defenceless people of Palestine. “In the history of the world never before has one race so openly been allowed to murder another on such a large scale with absolute impunity.

“Gaza is a concentration camp even Hitler would be proud of.

“One Holocaust does not justify another.”

“Jews were the victims of the Holocaust but but the sad irony is they are playing out their own history on the Palestinians.”

He added that David Cameron ‘has blood on his hands’ for failing to put pressure on Israel to stop its actions.

Niknam Hussain, a former mayor, was visibly emotional as he attacked the BBC for ‘bias’ towards Israel, which prompted chants of ‘BBC, shame on you’ from the crowd.

Steven Lambert, the Lib Dem opposition leader, told the crowd that ‘we are not just a bunch of people gathered together here in Market Square alone’.

“Today we are citizens of the world gathering here in solidarity.

“It is time Palestine had freedom.”

County councillor Julia Wassell criticised the British government for providing weapons to Israel and called on Tony Blair to be withdrawn as peace envoy for the Middle East – prompting chants of ‘Tony Blair, shame on you’ from the crowd.

Current mayor of Aylesbury, Tuffail Hussain also spoke briefly.

He told the crowd: “We gather here today so the community can show it cares. Stop the killing in Palestine and Gaza.”

A half-dozen or so police officers kept watch at a distance on the peaceful rally. Indeed, organisers were at pains to prevent inconvenience to shoppers coming out of Friars Square, urging crowds to move away from the shopping centre’s entrance.

The idea for the protest came from a handful of young Muslim women and was organised with support from Aylesbury Mosque and the local community.

One of women, Sadia Sultana, 20, a former Mandeville pupil, told the Herald: “In Aylesbury a lot of people were not aware of what is happening and we had to do something.

“There is this stereotypical image of Muslim girls staying at home and we want to change that perception. Normally at demonstrations you see a lot of males but it was great to see how many females were there.”

County councillor Raj Khan said: “Whilst the wider media perceive Muslim women to be oppressed, here we had a group of young women organising this event and saying ‘listen to this injustice in Palestine’.”

Iftekhar Bashir, president of Aylesbury Mosque, said that around 2,000 people were present in the square.

“It was very peaceful. A couple of police officers came up to me and said how well it went and I’d like to thank shoppers for their patience.”

Israel says the action is neccessary to protect its residents from Hamas rocket fire.

The ground operation is to target Hamas tunnel networks, which it says it could not do from the air alone.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the ground offensive was being expanded ‘to restore security and stability to Israel’s residents and citizens’.