Up to 5,000 people gathered in Belfast city centre on Saturday to protest against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
The rally organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), saw Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Hartley join Sue Pentel from Jews for Justice for Palestine and Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign in calling for an end to the bloodshed.
Representatives from the four main Christian churches and members of the Muslim community were also among the variety of groups demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East.
Mr Hartley said: “With over 800 people killed in the ongoing offensive, 270 of whom are children, the world cannot, nor will not stand idly by and let this crisis continue unmarked.
“Israel are now dropping leaflets over Gaza warning its inhabitants of an intensification so it is never more important to let those with influence hear the calls of outrage against the massive death toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“Primarily we are here to call for an immediate ceasefire. When we visited Palestine and Israel we called on the Israeli Defence Forces and Hamas to stop violent acts. We said that to their faces and from Belfast today we are repeating this plea.
“Talks and not bombs are the only way forward to achieve a two-state solution, independent of each other, peacefully co-existing and governed by those elected in a democratic process whether or not we in the West or anywhere else agree or disagree.”
As the rally ended about 100 activists from socialist group éirígí staged protests outside Marks and Spencer and in Castlecourt. Thousands of leaflets and photographs of Israeli atrocities in the Gaza Strip were dropped onto the Sea Spa Skin Care stand while protestors surrounded the stand chanting “Boycott Israeli Goods”.
Seán Mac Brádaigh, a spokesman for éirígí, said: “We appeal for all progressive groups and individuals to join the effort to make Belfast, and Ireland, an Israeli-product free zone. That is the most practical gesture of solidarity we can give to the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom, justice and peace.”
Meanwhile the DUP has branded a Sinn Fein protest in support of the people of Gaza planned to take place at Stormont today as “hypocritical”. East Belfast MLA Robin Newton said: “Sinn Fein's event is not inspired by concerns for innocent people but is motivated by their declared support for the Hamas terrorist organisation.”