ATHENS (Reuters) - Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Europe and the Middle East on Monday, clashing with police as they protested against the Israeli storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla during which 10 activists were killed.
In Athens, some 3,500 protesters rallied outside the Israeli embassy, chanting “Hands off Gaza” and “Free Palestine.” Several hundreds clashed with police, throwing chunks of marble, stones and bottles. Police fired teargas to disperse them.
“Demonstrators set barricades on fire, police chased them, there were a lot of stones and teargas and a few people had blood on their heads,” a Reuters witness said, adding he saw four people injured. Police said they detained five protesters.
The Israeli marines’ action in the eastern Mediterranean sparked street protests and government ire in Turkey, long Israel’s lone Muslim ally in the region, and thousands of followers of an anti-U.S. cleric took to the streets in Baghdad.
Police used teargas in Paris when about 2,000 people demonstrated near the Israeli embassy, hurling stones, waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and brandishing banners saying “Long live free Palestine” and “Criminal Israel.”
Small, peaceful anti-Israel demonstrations were held in Rome and other Italian cities. “The Italian government needs to immediately call back its ambassador from Israel as other countries in Europe have done,” said Paolo Cento, a leftwing politician among the demonstrators.
“This is extremely serious and has no precedent whatsoever in the history of international diplomacy.”
Swedish police said more than 5,000 protesters marched from a central Stockholm square toward the Israeli embassy, carrying banners and shouting slogans.
Chanting “Boycott Israel,” they held banners saying “Free Gaza,” “Put Israel on Trial, “Israel to The Hague” and “Gaza Bleeds.”
Reporting by Yannis Behrakis, Yiorgos Karahalis and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Cristiano Corvino in Rome, Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris; writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Tim Pearce