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France bans pro-Palestinian protests amid rise in anti-semitic acts as Israel-Hamas war rages on

At least 24 people have been arrested in 100 anti-semitic acts in France since the Hamas attack on Israel on Saturday. The decision to ban pro-Palestinian protests was also made in consideration of over 2,000 anti-semitic speeches.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Paris Published on: October 13, 2023 12:32 IST
Police fire tear gas to disperse pro-Palestinian protesters
Image Source : AP Police fire tear gas to disperse pro-Palestinian protesters in France

France has ordered local authorities to effect a ban on all pro-Palestinian protests demonstrations in the country amid a rise in anti-semitic acts since Israel faced an unprecedented attack from the Hamas militant group last weekend.

This comes after French President Emmanuel Macron urged people to not allow the conflict between Israel and Palestine to erupt into tensions at home. "Let us not bring ideological adventures here (to France) by imitation or by projection. Let us not add national fractures ... to international fractures... Let us stay united," Macron said.

Shortly before Macron's address, police in Paris resorted to the use of tear gas and water cannons to disperse pro-Palestinian protesters who had defied the ban and staged a demonstration against the Israeli government on Thursday.

Notably, France has the world's third-largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States, and the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. The Macron government registered 24 arrests for over 100 anti-semitic actions in France since the Hamas attack on Saturday. Some people have been caught with knives near Jewish schools and a drone was spotted over a Jewish cultural centre. Over 2,000 cases of anti-semitic speech have been reported to an online watchdog force.

In the wake of such incidents, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin directed local authorities to further tighten security around Jewish schools, synagogues and other sites and said that pro-Palestinian demonstrations should be banned, and people who defy the ban to be arrested as they are "susceptible to disrupt public order".

The National Collective for a Fair and Lasting Peace between Palestinians and Israelis said it ‘’denounces this threat to freedom of expression,’’ and pledged to continue holding actions to support the Palestinian people. At the Thursday event, protesters draped Palestinian flags on their shoulders and "Free Palestine’’ was sprayed on the monument underpinning Republic Plaza in eastern Paris.

Earlier this week, thousands of people marched in Paris in support of Israel, and the Eiffel Tower was lit up with a Star of David and the blue and white of the Israeli flag.

France and Israel

Notably, Macron said that 13 French citizens have been killed in Israel by the Hamas attack and 17 others are missing, believed to be captured and taken hostage by militants. An investigation has been launched by the Paris prosecutor's office into the suspected kidnappings.

The French President had denounced Hamas as a terrorist group and condemned the attacks, saying that those "confusing the Palestinian cause with justifying terrorism are committing a moral, political and strategic error". He also called for peace efforts to ensure Israeli security and a Palestinian state.

Macron also addressed the concerns of French-Israeli families whose kin have disappeared and are believed kidnapped or killed by Hamas. "We will do everything so that these hostages, regardless of their nationality, are freed," he said.

Additionally, the French government organised an evacuation flight on Thursday to bring French citizens in Israel to Paris, and other flights are planned in the coming days. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced she would travel to the region on Sunday.

The Israel-Hamas war

The death toll from Israeli strikes on Gaza rose to 1,537, with 6,612 people wounded, the Gaza-based Health Ministry said Thursday. Of those killed, 500 were under the age of 18, the ministry said. On the other hand, over 1,300 people have died in Israel from the Hamas attack since Saturday morning.

Palestinians said that heavy Israeli airstrikes continued across the Gaza Strip, with bombardment on residential buildings in densely populated city districts and refugee camps. Additionally, Syrian state media reported that Israeli airstrikes on Thursday put two Syrian international airports out of service.

The Israeli Air Force on Friday said that it struck 750 military targets in Gaza overnight, including underground Hamas terror tunnels, military compounds and posts, residences of senior terrorist operatives used as military command centers, weapons storage warehouses, comms rooms and targeted senior terrorist operatives.

"Dozens of fighter jets struck numerous Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip, including 12 Hamas military assets, each located in a multi-story building used by the Hamas for terror purposes," it said on X.

Now, the Israeli military has ordered the evacuation of at least 1.1 million people in northern Gaza ahead of a possible ground assault on the territory in retaliation to an unprecedented attack on the Jewish country that has killed hundreds of people, according to the United Nations.

Since Israel retaliated with airstrikes to retaliate against the Hamas attack on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned to "destroy and crush" the militant group. This sparked concerns that Israel would launch a ground assault that is expected to be far bloodier and more destructive than the airstrikes that have killed more than 1,500 Palestinians.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | Israel military orders evacuation of 1.1 million people from northern Gaza as ground offensive looms

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