Thousands of protesters took to the streets in central London in support of Palestinians and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was reportedly killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank.
Activists chanted “free Palestine”, “1, 2, 3, 4, occupation no more” and held an array of banners and signs as they marched from near the BBC headquarters at Portland Place to Downing Street.
Organizers said around 10,000 people attended the rally to stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and observe Nakba, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinians when the Israeli state was founded.
A number of protesters held signs paying tribute to Al-Jazeera journalist Ms Abu Akleh, who was shot dead while covering a raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank, prompting widespread international condemnation.
Activists at the protest told The Independent they were outraged by the killing of the experienced correspondent, who was a household name across the Arab world and respected for her coverage of Palestinian life under Israeli rule.
Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity campaign said: “We’re delivering two key messages today. The first is to the Palestinian people to show them that there are people in the UK in their thousands who will March, protest and boycott in solidarity with their struggle for liberation.
“We are also calling on our government, our public bodies and corporations end their complicity in Israel’s system of apartheid. We mark the Nakba as a historical event but also, an ongoing process of colonization that can’t be sustained without the complicity of our government.”
Mr Jamal added: “Press freedom is a bedrock of democratic systems and governments like ours are playing lip service to principles of democracy.”
Several prominent left-wing figures spoke at the rally, including Labor MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell who paid tribute to Ms Abu Akleh and demanded “the killers are brought to justice”.
On Friday, the UN Security Council, which called in a rare statement for “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” into the death of Ms Abu Akleh.
Late Friday, the Palestinian public prosecutor said preliminary findings show Abu Akleh was killed by deliberate fire from Israeli troops. The prosecutor said the investigation would continue. Israel’s military said earlier Friday that she was killed during an exchange of fire with Palestinian militants, and that it couldn’t determine the source of the shot that killed her.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority, and urged it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal round. The PA has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.
The PA and Al Jazeera, which has long had a strained relationship with Israel, have accused Israel of deliberately killing the journalist. Israel denies the accusations.
Israeli police decided on Saturday to investigate the conduct of their officers who attacked Ms Abu Akleh’s funeral, causing mourners to briefly drop the casket during the ceremony in Jerusalem.
Police forces beat pallbearers with batons at the start of the funeral procession.
In a statement Saturday, the Israeli police said their commissioner has instructed an investigation that would be concluded in the coming days. “The Israel Police supports its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident,” the statement said.
The police say they used force as hundreds of “rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police.”
Additional reporting by agencies