Children joined thousands of other demonstrators making their way through central London for a pro-Palestinian march on Saturday, part of a global day of action against the longest and deadliest war between Israel and Palestinians in 75 years.
The plight of children in the Gaza Strip after nearly 100 days of the Israel-Hamas was the focus of the latest London march, symbolized by the appearance of Little Amal, a 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) puppet originally meant to highlight the suffering of Syrian refugees.
The puppet had become a human rights emblem during an 8,000-kilometer (4,970-mile) journey from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester in July 2001.
Nearly two-thirds of the 23,843 people killed during Israel’s campaign in Gaza have been women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Israel declared war in response to Hamas’ unprecedented cross-border attack on Oct. 7 in which the Islamic militant group killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 others hostage. It was the deadliest attack in Israel’s history and the deadliest for Jews since the Holocaust.
March organizers said the Palestinian children will accompany Little Amal through the streets of central London.
“On Saturday Amal walks for those most vulnerable and for their bravery and resilience,“ said Amir Nizar Zuabi, artistic director of The Walk Productions. “Amal is a child and a refugee and today in Gaza childhood is under attack, with an unfathomable number of children killed. Childhood itself is being targeted. That’s why we walk.”
London’s Metropolitan Police force said some 1,700 officers will be on duty for the march, including many from outside the capital.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said he had been briefed by police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley on plans to “ensure order and safety” during the protest.
“I back them to use their powers to manage the protest and crack down on any criminality,” Cleverly said.
A number of conditions were placed for the march, including a directive that no participant in the protest shall venture near the Israeli Embassy.
A pro-Israel rally is set to take place in London on Sunday.
The London march was one of several others being held in European cities including Paris, Rome, Milan, and Dublin where thousands also marched along the Irish capital’s main thoroughfare to protest Israel’s military operations in the Palestinian enclave.
Protesters waved Palestinian flags, held placards critical of the Irish, U.S. and Israeli governments and chanted, “Free, free Palestine.″
Israel’s military said the bodies of three Israeli hostages held in Gaza had been recovered.