Pro-Palestinian protesters to surround White House; fencing put up

Aftermath of an Israeli strike, in Khan Younis

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Pro-Palestinian activists demanding an end to the war in Gaza and to American support for Israel plan to surround the White House during a weekend protest, prompting additional security measures, including anti-scale fencing.

Advocacy and activist groups like CODEPINK and the Council on American Islamic Relations said on Friday that demonstrations were planned on Saturday, marking eight months of Israel's war in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands while causing a humanitarian crisis with widespread hunger and destruction.

The United States, Israel's key ally, has seen months of pro-Palestinian protests ranging from marches in Washington and vigils near the White House to the blocking of bridges and roads near train stations and airports in multiple cities and encampments on many college campuses.

At least eight officials have quit the administration of President Joe Biden citing their opposition to his policy. Protesters have also disrupted some of Biden's reelection campaign events. Biden is currently in France for an official visit.

"In preparation for the events this weekend in Washington, D.C., that have the potential for large crowds to gather, additional public safety measures have been put in place near the White House complex," a U.S. Secret Service spokesperson said.

Biden and the White House have previously said they support peaceful protests but not "chaos" and violence.

University protests have had occasional violence while police have made arrests on campuses to clear encampments. Anti-war activists encamped at the University of California, Los Angeles, were violently attacked by a mob weeks ago.

There has also been concern about a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia amid the conflict.

The war began when Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 and taking 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's subsequent assault on Gaza has killed over 36,000, according to the local health ministry, displaced nearly the entire 2.3 million population there and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies. A renewed ceasefire push seemed stalled as of Friday.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)