Hundreds of anti- and pro-Israel protesters greeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in London on Wednesday, ahead of his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Seven people were arrested during the rival protests, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
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Activists gathered outside London's 10 Downing Street, Cameron's residence and the first stop on Netanyahu's U.K. visit. There were around 1,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators and 500 pro-Israel demonstrators, the Jewish Chronicle said.
Organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the demonstrators are protesting Netanyahu on account of his "war crimes" in last summer's war in Gaza, according to Newsweek. Anti-Israel demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and held signs reading "Free Palestine," "Gaza: End the Siege," and "Arrest Netanyahu: Child killer." They were also seen waving Hamas and Hezbollah flags, the Jewish Chronicle said.
The seven arrests included a pro-Palestinian demonstrator suspected of causing grievous bodily harm to a fellow protester. Police said two people were arrested for obstruction and a third for criminal damage, according to the Jewish Chronicle. One demonstrator was arrested for apparently making an anti-Semitic remark.
The public protest began well before the prime minister's arrival. On Monday, a group of prominent left-wing figures in Britain, including three Labour members of parliament, decried Netanyahu's official visit, saying that the Israeli prime minister "must bear responsibility for war crimes identified by the UN human rights council in its probe into Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza," The Guardian reported.
Netanyahu is in the U.K. to "discuss diplomatic, strategic and bilateral issues, as well as joint challenges in the fields of security, economics and cyber," according to a press release issued by the Israeli Embassy in London. His two day visit, along with his wife Sara, comes just before the UN General Assembly in New York later this month. In addition to meeting with Cameron, Netanyahu is set to meet with British members of parliament and Jewish community leaders.
However, the protesters believe Cameron's meeting with Netanyahu is the ultimate hypocrisy. "Netanyahu must bear responsibility for war crimes identified by the UN human rights council in its investigation into Israel's 2014 assault on Gaza. And yet, while Cameron continues to impose limits on the number of refugees who can take shelter in the U.K., he is willing to welcome Netanyahu to our shores," the group wrote in an open letter published in The Guardian on Monday.
The group also links the Palestinian cause to the refugees fleeing from Syria and Iraq, saying "Palestinians fleeing the hell that Israel has created in Gaza are among the thousands of refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean in the last year."
These protests come in the wake of a petition calling for the prime minister's arrest upon arrival in the U.K. The petition began circulating on August 7. It is active online until February 6, 2016, and already has over 108,000 signatures.