Protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza turned violent yesterday when demonstrators in London burned Israeli flags and hurled missiles including fireworks at police officers. As Israel began a ground offensive, a crowd of about 5,000, dominated by young British Muslims, gathered around the country’s London embassy. Officers with riot shields sealed off local roads as a small group of angry protesters tried to storm the building. Older protesters were seen trying to calm sections of the crowd. As darkness fell the atmosphere became more heated, vocal and aggressive. The group had broken away from a larger demonstration earlier when people had marched through central London to Trafalgar Square to protest against the attacks, which have left almost 500 dead. Police estimated that 12,000 attended the rally but Stop The War Coalition, which organised the march, claimed it was six times that number.
Similar coalitions have sponsored numerous anti Iraq War and and Israel demonstrations since 2003.