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Thousands join Palestine rally in Brussels
Organisers of a rally in support of Palestine held on Sunday estimated that at least 40,000 people gathered at the Schuman roundabout in Brussels for the demonstration.
The civil organisations that called for the rally were demanding a different political response to the violence taking place in the region, and said they were surprised by the outpouring of support.
Organisers expected about 10,000 people to attend the demonstration, which included a procession and speeches. While they said that 40,000 people came, police put the count much lower at 12,000.
Demonstrators called on the European Union to do everything in its power to bring about a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and to protect all civilians and give them access to international aid.
“It's quite shocking to see European representatives only on the Israeli side, when there are victims on both sides,” one demonstrator, Abdelkarim, told reporters.
Chants of “Stop the massacres, stop impunity, boycott Israel” marked the demonstration, and organisers said they also wanted the EU to demand that Israel lift the siege of Gaza and its blockade, advocating its reconnection with the rest of the Palestinian territory.
They also called on the European authorities to provide political and financial support for the International Criminal Court's investigation into the situation in Palestine, and want them to tackle the structural causes of the current conflict by adopting binding measures against Israel.
Supporters of Palestine say these measures should put an end to the occupation, colonisation and apartheid against the Palestinian people.
“There have already been far too many innocent victims in Gaza,” said Brussels-based Flemish MP Stijn Bex (Groen), who attended the rally.
“We cannot tolerate this any longer, therefore the international community has to send a signal that this has to stop.”
Hamdan Aldamiri, coordinator of the Association of the Palestinian Community of Belgium, said that Belgium can set itself apart at the European level.
“We have asked the prime minister to take a strong stance,” Aldamiri said.
“The so-called 'small' European countries can take a strong stand and stand out. Europe must distinguish itself politically from America. This is a crime. Israel cannot go unpunished.”
As the crowd grew on Sunday, Brussels police temporarily banned car traffic from the Rue de la Loi for safety reasons. The demonstration was largely peaceful.
Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga