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Thousands gather in Edinburgh to call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Thousands of pro-Palestine supporters gathered in Edinburgh on Saturday in support of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Carrying Palestinian flags and placards, they marched from Edinburgh Castle down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament, shouting slogans such as: “No Justice, No Peace”, and: “Ceasefire now!”

Arranged by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, spokesperson Mick Napier said: “Israel needs to act on last week’s Order of the World Court, which requires that it take measures to prevent further genocide, and stop preventing aid getting to the two million people of Gaza. The only way that is possible is with an immediate ceasefire, which is what we are calling for.

“While the Scottish Parliament has at least called for a ceasefire, the UK Government, as usual, has been entirely complicit in Israel’s crimes.

“We need to increase the pressure on (Prime Minister Rishi) Sunak so that the UK stops facilitating the genocide.”

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The march was organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Lauren Gilmour/PA)

It took around half an hour for marchers to arrive at Holyrood, with deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress Linda Somerville saying it was “very rare” for the area of grass, that had been designated as a demonstration area, to be filled.

Addressing those gathered, Ms Somerville said: “Very rarely, despite the fact this building has been opened now for a number of years, do we ever see it filled. Thank you for coming today to do this.

“Israel is deliberately targeting women and children – the most hideous form of oppression and torture of a nation.

“Today, I bring you the support and solidarity of the STUC, on behalf of Scotland’s trade unions.

“When the October 7 attack on Israel happened, the STUC along with many trade unions were some of the first organisations to condemn the attack, and condemn Israel’s cruel response in cutting off supplies.

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The demonstration called for an immediate ceasefire (Lauren Gilmour/PA)

“We called for humanitarian aid to be let in and pledged our support for the people of Palestine.

“This is not new – trade unions have a long and proud history of standing with Palestine.”

In an emotionally charged speech, Dr Eman El Bahnassawy, a Palestinian who now works as an orthodontist in Edinburgh, said: “Israel has enjoyed killing my people, displacing my family and wiping out generations of Palestinians, erasing villages, history, culture and tradition.

“Shame on them.

“We are empowered by uncovering the complicity and the abating of this genocide by governments like the USA and the UK.”

Dr El Bahnassawy told the crowd her 79-year-old mother remains in Gaza.

She said: “She is losing weight, she is exhausted, she is running out of her medication.

“The 2.3 million Palestinians who have been displaced are running out of luxuries.

“Toilets are a luxury, women’s sanitary products are a luxury.

“Where are all the feminists now?”

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard also addressed the crowd at the demonstration.

He said: “I can say without any hesitation that you here today, you represent the people of this city, the people of this country, in demanding there is justice for Palestine.

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Crowds gathered outside the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh for the demonstration (Lauren Gilmour/PA)

Mr Sheppard said the pausing of UK funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) was an “outrage” and “could not stand”.

He urged those gathered to make a record of what people say and what people do in the lead-up to this year’s general election.

The MP added: “We demand an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

“We demand the release of all prisoners and hostages and we demand the beginning of a new political process to ensure the Palestinian people have recognition and justice.”

Earlier this week, Britain said future funding for a UN relief agency that helps Palestinians hinges on the outcome of inquiries into allegations that staff took part in the October 7 attack on Israel.

Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell said the UNRWA is “critical” to delivering humanitarian aid into Gaza and the region, but added the UK is “appalled” by the allegations of agency staff being involved in the atrocities.

The UK joined the US, Australia, Italy and other countries in pausing funding for UNRWA after it sacked a number of staff accused of taking part in the October attack.

The funding pause has sparked concerns about the impact the decision will have on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza as the Israeli bombardment continues.

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People during a pro-Palestine march in Edinburgh, organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Lauren Gilmour/PA)

The row over funding for UNRWA comes amid rising tension in the Middle East after a drone attack on Sunday killed three US troops and injured dozens more in north-eastern Jordan, near the Syrian border.

Several opposition MPs have pressed the UK Government to suspend arms sales to Israel following an interim ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in Gaza in a genocide case filed by South Africa, but it demanded that Israel tries to contain death and damage in its military offensive.