French government may ban Saturday Gaza protest after peaceful demos Wednesday
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The French government may ban Saturday’s Gaza solidarity march in Paris, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Thursday, after pro-Palestinian demonstrations went off peacefully on Wednesday evening.
If there are no guarantees on security, Saturday’s protest against the Israeli offensive on Gaza will be banned, Valls told RTL radio.
Four banned protests on Sunday went ahead with two, in Paris and nearby Sarcelles, ending in rioting but Wednesday’s authorised march in Paris - attended by 14,500, according to police, 25,000, according to the organisers – was peaceful.
Valls said that was because the organisers had “taken responsibility” for security and there had been “one police officer or gendarme for every 15 demonstrators”.
Sixteen people were arrested afterwards in a Jewish neighbourhood for trying to break into a closed restaurant allegedly shouting anti-Semitic insults.
Protests also took place in Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Reims on Wednesday evening.
The government’s position on the Gaza conflict has aroused opposition in the ruling Socialist Party.
About 30 MPs defied the leader of party’s parliamentary faction, Bruno Le Roux, who urged members not to attend the march, claiming that anti-Semites were likely to take part.
One of the dissidents, Pascal Cherki, told RFI that his participation was consistent with his party’s traditional position in the Middle East conflict.
Earlier this week about 100 party members signed a letter to President François Hollande, claiming that he has taken a pro-Israel stance in breach with the party’s criticism of the 2009 offensive on Gaza.
Valls insisted that the government has a “balanced” position and repeated France’s support for an Egypt-brokered ceasefire accepted by Israel but not by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
The death toll from the offensive stood at 710 Palestinians and 35 Israelis on Thursday morning.
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