CEASEFIRE NOW! – Halt the massacre of the Palestinian and Lebanese people

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A section of the over 3,000-strong picket outside Downing Street on Friday evening
A section of the over 3,000-strong picket outside Downing Street on Friday evening

‘MY TOWN has been demolished. Children are still under rubble. Families are still under rubble,’ said Najid Faqih, from Nabatieh in southern Lebanon, as she stood outside Downing Street last Friday evening.

‘Are they terrorist targets?’ Najid asked. ‘I wonder who is the terrorist in the Middle East?’

She added: ‘We need peace, peace for everybody. No aggression.

‘They are supposed to be supporting democracy and free elections in the Middle East and they refuse to recognise the elected representatives of the Palestinian and Lebanese people.’

Karim Chamas said: ‘What is happening is unbelievable. It is a nightmare. Israel is killing civilians.

‘They’re bombing hospitals, food depots, they’re bombing residential areas.

‘In the south they’re throwing leaflets out of planes saying, basically, “Leave your house, we’re going to bomb the area in an hour’’.

‘And then what happens? They bombed the fleeing civilians!

‘This is barbaric, this is not humanitarian acts, and the whole world is turning a blind eye and turning its back.

‘Immediately Israel has to stop terrorising the country, stop the massacres, stop the killing of children,’ he insisted.

‘Blair and Bush must immediately halt support for Israel’s barbarism.’

More than 3,000 people took part in Friday evening’s mass picket of Downing Street to condemn the Blair government for slavishly supporting Washington and allowing American transporters carrying more bombs for Israel to refuel in Britain.

The Irish government refused to allow the US planes to refuel at Shannon airport. This is why they are using Prestwick, in Scotland.

After two hours, police forced the protesters to leave the picket, under new powers to control and ban protests within 1km of parliament.

This was to ‘make way’ for hundreds more Lebanese protesters who held a silent vigil for the many hundreds who have been slaughtered in Israel’s daily onslaught on the Lebanon and Gaza Strip.

Pickets waving Palestinian and Lebanese flags kept up chants of: ‘Ceasefire now!’ and ‘George Bush – terrorist! Tony Blair – terrorist! Olmert – terrorist!’

They continued with: ‘Stop the killing, stop the bombs – Israel out of Lebanon!’, ‘Down, down Israel! Free, free Palestine!’, ‘We are all Hezbollah!’ and ‘Olmert, Olmert, what do you say – how many kids have you killed today!’ and ‘Tony Blair has got to go!’

Organisers from the Stop The War Coalition announced that 50 coaches had already been booked in Lancashire for an emergency national demonstration this Saturday, August 5, assembling at 12noon at Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch.

As the police were ordering the first protest to disperse on Friday, hundreds of cyclists stopped opposite Downing Street, took placards and waved their bikes in their air to show their anger at Blair.

On the picket Leila Hewitt, aged 22, told News Line: ‘I have relatives in Lebanon. It is absolute hell.

‘They can’t go anywhere, they can’t walk anywhere.

‘Lebanon was just recovering, just starting to build itself up from the last bout of war that was going on there.

‘I think it’s disgusting Blair supports the bombing.

‘There’s no need for innocent people in Lebanon to be suffering like this, or in Palestine for that matter.

‘We must make people sit up and take notice.

‘If leaders like Bush and Blair carry on like this then they are just going to control the whole of the world and nobody else will get a say in it.’

Abdul Manen, from London, said: ‘I’ve come here because I would like to have a ceasefire, right now.

‘And what Israel is doing in Lebanon right now is totally unjust, and what America is doing is totally unjust too, because it is supporting Israel too.

‘If you are powerful, you should be humble, you should save the people by building schools and hospitals, not to destroy schools and hospitals.

‘Killing four innocent UN soldiers, who are supposed to be neutrial – I’m really upset what the Israelis are doing to the UN peacekeepers.

‘Israelis are above the UN, above America, above the law, above everyone.

‘We want an immediate ceasefire, an end to the bloodshed and an end to Tony Blair’s support for the bloodshed.’

Toufic Hachnouk, 21, from Lebanon, and Ahmed Janous, 22, a Palestinian, said: ‘We are here to voice our outrage to what’s happening in Lebanon, especially from the international community – specifically Tony Blair and George Bush – and the coverage from the British press, which has been appalling.

‘As well, the British government has allowed weapons for Israel to pass through the country at the same time as they say they want peace.

‘We feel extremely outraged.

‘We don’t know what to do about it when something can happen in front of everyone’s eyes, and – despite the worldwide demonstrations – these two countries have the outrage to say they would veto a ceasefire in the United Nations.

‘It makes us feel hopeless, you don’t know what to do.’

PCS civil service union members from DEFRA (formerly the Department of Agriculture) brought their banner to Friday’s picket.

Niaz Faiz, who was part of the delegation, said: ‘We’ve come here to show our solidarity and support for the Lebanese and Palestinian people.

‘The first thing we are demanding is an immediate ceasefire.

‘We want peace for the Lebanese people and Palestinian people.

‘I would very strongly urge all the trade unions to turn out on the August 5 demonstration and I’m sure the PCS will be there in full force.’

Another picket, Mike, from Bromley, said: ‘I think Tony Blair has got to realise he’s completely out of step with the feelings of most of the people in this country.

‘For the first time in his premiership he’s got to listen to the voice of the people.

‘The Blair government is supporting Israel by its action as a proxy US state.

‘Everyone in Britain should be protesting against this because this is cold-blooded murder, and if you remain silent then you are supporting it.’

Amel, another picket, accused the American government of organising sectarian death squads in Iraq.

‘This never ever happened in Iraq before,’ she said.

‘Believe me, we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, eating from one plate.

‘Now Iraqis know that all these terrible things are happening from America.

‘We need your help. Please, Iraqis love everybody. This never happened to any country.

‘Please help our people. Help the Lebanon.’

George, from London, said: ‘Blair must immediately halt British components going to Israel.

‘The weapons of mass destruction are being made in this country and they target the Arabs – the Palestinians in particular, who are a defenceless nation.

‘They are being killed at the hands of a terrorist and illegal state.’