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Photo essay: French protest Israeli assault

Photo essay: French protest Israeli assault

By Yasmine Ryan

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Up to 25,000 people demonstrators gathered in central Paris on Saturday to show their opposition to Israel's military offensive against the population of Gaza.

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An intergenerational and cross-cultural crowd chanted "We are all Palestinians" and "Israel Assassin". In keeping with the solidarity expressed in the slogans, while some carried Lebanese, Algerian, Tunisian and Hezbullah flags, there were far more waving Palestinian flags and wearing traditional black-and-white keffiehs.

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French leftist groups were also out in force, including several major unions, Olivier Besancenot, leader of the Communist Revolutionary League and Marie-George Buffet, head of the French Communist Party. Some carried signs accusing President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and EU leaders of turning a blind eye to the invasion of Gaza.

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The marchers in Paris began from place de le République mid-afternoon. There were isolated reports of vandalism and clashes with police later in the evening.

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Tens of thousands protested against the Israeli assault in other towns and cities across France this weekend, along with some smaller pro-Israeli demonstrations.

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Following the protests, the France's foreign ministry issued a statement condemning Israel's ground offensive on Sunday, while also criticizing the continued firing of rockets by Hamas militants. The EU has taken a sharper tone with Israel than Washington, particularly since the ground invasion began on Saturday.

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"This dangerous military escalation complicates efforts by the international community and in particular the European Union and France, the members of the Quartet and the states in the region to end the fighting, bring immediate aid to civilians and reach a permanent cease-fire," the statement said.

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Yasmine Ryan is a New Zealand journalist based in Paris. She reports on New Zealand politics, and international affairs.

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