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Scores of people yesterday converged in the Africa Unity Square in solidarity with Palestinian people who are being bombarded daily by Israeli troops in a brutal military campaign that has claimed hundreds of lives and has been roundly condemned worldwide.The protesters, made up of the Muslim community in Zimbabwe, Palestinians and locals, urged the Government to expel the Israeli ambassador to Zimbabwe as part of global efforts to force Israel to stop its murderous campaign and pull out of the Gaza Strip.

“This gathering is there to express solidarity with the people of Palestine,” said Mr Tawanda Makore, leader of the Friends of Palestine Solidarity Movement.

“Israel is bombing defenceless women and children for no apparent reason. Their only crime is their demands for the respect of their territorial rights. What Israel is doing is a crime against humanity.”

The protesters handed a petition to the Parliament demanding an end to trade with Israel and the expulsion of its diplomatic representative to protest the killings in Palestine which were described by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay as close to “war crimes”.

The petition, signed by more than 400 people, had nine demands, among them the withdrawal of Israel troops from Gaza, restoration of water rights for the besieged people in Palestine as well as release of prisoners, removal of trade embargoes and a battery of other punitive measures imposed by Israel in Gaza.

“Let’s stop trade with these Israelites, let’s stop going to the holy shrines in Israel,” said Mr Makore. “This is not a religious battle but a humanitarian battle to stop the bloodshed in Gaza. Israelis will never know peace as long as the Palestinians are suffering.”

More than 600 civilians have been killed to date in Gaza after Israeli troops launched a ground offensive allegedly in pursuit of Hamas militants but largely blamed for the wanton massacre of women and children.

Israeli aircraft and tanks have hit more than 70 targets in the Gaza Strip, including five mosques, a football stadium and the home of the late leader of Hamas’ military wing, according to media reports.

“We are asking the international community to stand in solidarity with the suffering children and women in Palestine,” said Mr Jabulani Charcharly, a youth leader of the Zimbabwe Muslim Organisation.

“Both Christians and Muslims must unite in condemning Israel for subjugating the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Shakeel Ahmad, a protester, said: “Israel should stop the killing of innocent people. They must respect the rights of Palestinians to self-determination.”

Deputy ambassador of Palestine to Zimbabwe Mr Salim Slam who was part of the protesters hailed Zimbabweans for showing solidarity with the struggling people of Palestine.

“We thank Zimbabweans for supporting the Palestinian struggle. We thank them for condemning the cowardly acts of the Israeli regime,” he said.

The Israeli government has no embassy in Zimbabwe. The Israeli ambassador to South Africa also represents his country in Zimbabwe in addition to other countries in southern Africa.

Source : The Herald