On Friday, Israel warned families in northern Gaza to leave their homes and Palestinian authorities say more than 2,200 people have died in airstrikes. In London, thousands joined a demonstration at the BBC's headquarters in Portland Place, with protesters intending to march to Whitehall.
The protest was organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Stop the War Coalition, Muslim Association of Britain, Palestinian Forum in Britain, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Many are calling for a free Palestine amid wider concern that a humanitarian disaster is unfolding in the Middle East, with people calling for Israel to protect civilians and respect international law.
In the past week Jewish Londoners have reported a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and growing fears for their safety. Some schools have chosen to close for security reasons. Police say recent weeks have also seen a rise in Islamophobic incidents being.
Rabbi Herschel Gluck, chairman of the Arab-Jewish Forum, and chairman and founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum said most people in London's communities want to live in "peace and harmony". We’re dealing with two deeply traumatised groups of people and we need to be aware of that,” he said. “We need to deal with the situation bearing that in mind, we need to feel, we need to care, we need to see through that prism. We need to act in a way that will de-escalate the situation."
The Met Police has said more than 1,000 officers are policing today's march. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor 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.”
The force says flying a Palestinian flag does not alone constitute a criminal offence. It said in a statement: "However, there are some situations where the presence of a flag or banner or the use of specific words or phrases could be seen as intimidation. In some circumstances, it could also be seen as intending to cause harassment, alarm or distress. We have written to the Attorney General and Crown Prosecution Service asking for urgent clarity and guidance on charging thresholds relating to hate crime to support our policing in coming days."