Pro-Israeli rally draws thousands to Paris
French capital sees 12,000 demonstrators gather in show of support for Israel, Operation Cast Lead. 'Israel is simply fighting for its freedom, the survival of its people," says France's chief rabbi
Warmly dressed to brave seasonably cold weather, about 12,000 demonstrators gathered on a street not far from the Israeli embassy, according to organizers, the CRIF, an umbrella group of French Jewish organizations.
Police said 4,000 people turned up for the demonstration held on a side street after city authorities barred them from massing directly in front of the embassy.
Show of support (Photo: AFP)
Saturday, more than 20,000 people marched to show support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and to condemn Israel's offensive aimed at halting rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled territory.
"Israel is simply fighting for its freedom and for the survival of its people," France's Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim told the crowd. "There is no desire to destroy another people."
Bernheim said it was important for French Jews and Muslims to "maintain a relationship of trust" and expressed concern for the fate of French-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in 2006 by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
France is home to Europe's biggest Jewish and Muslim communities and Middle East violence has in the past stoked tensions in ethnically-mixed neighborhoods.
Pro-Palestinian protesters Saturday burned Israeli flags, torched several cars and smashed windows of shops along the chic Hausmann Boulevard near the Paris Opera house.