Thousands descend on White House to protest Gaza war
Agence France-Presse
Published: Saturday January 10, 2009

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WASHINGTON (AFP) - Several thousand protesters -- 10,000 according to organizers -- descended on the White House Saturday in support of Palestinians in Gaza, on the heels of other protests across major world capitals.

The protests came as Israel vowed to escalate its war in Gaza that has left 825 Palestinians dead so far, as troops battled fighters from the Islamist movement Hamas into a third week in defiance of a United Nations truce call.

"There are many young people. We feel it's one of the most important demonstrations for Palestine ever in the US," said Eugene Puryear, a coordinator of the protest, which was organized by the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition.

Thousands of people gathered from about 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, chanting "free Palestine" as others spoke from a podium.

Protesters waived Palestinian flags, wore keffiyeh -- a traditional Palestinian headdress -- and waived signs, some of which read "stop the Gaza holocaust" and "Free Palestine, let Gaza live."

They then led a march passing in front of the headquarters of The Washington Post newspaper to protest "its hard pro-Israeli line," Puryear said, before heading to the offices of military contractor Lockheed Martin.

"I came because there are innocent children dying daily in Palestine. The American people need to know the truth," said 13-year-old Razan Ali, a Palestinian-American who bused in from New York.

A dozen buses filled with protesters came from New Jersey and another seven buses drove in from New York.

Yasmina Farej, a 54-year-old who came from Brooklyn dressed in conservative Muslim garb, said she was motivated to join the protest because of "the war in Gaza; they bomb the innocent children."

Demonstrators against the Israeli offensive also rallied in major cities in Canada and across Europe.

Some 123,000 protesters marched through Paris and many other cities in France, home to Europe's largest Muslim population, the French interior ministry said.

In Lebanon tens of thousands of people took part in a protest organized by the Shiite militia Hezbollah in the southern town of Nabatiyeh, a stronghold of the group, which fought a brutal 34-day war with Israel in the summer of 2006.