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Relative of Israeli air strike victims joins demonstration

A relative of five young girls killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza joined one of the demonstrations held across Britain today in protest against the bombings.

Mohammed Balousha, 30, said his cousins, aged from just two weeks old to 14, lost their lives when Israel's forces targeted a mosque near their home in Jabalya, one of the territory's largest refugee camps.

He was relayed the news last night in a phone call with his brother, who is in Gaza.

Speaking at the demonstration in Birmingham city centre, Mr Balousha said: "The Israelis were bombing a mosque near the house and the house was destroyed.

"We saw pictures on Palestine television of them lifting one of the surviving girls off the rubble and beneath her were some of her younger sisters, who had died.

"I think they were asleep at the time. It's awful."

He said the girls, who were second cousins, were members of the Balousha family. They included Sama, four, and 14-year-old Samar.

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The Birmingham protest lasted for around 90 minutes and attracted up to 700 people, said organisers. West Midlands Police estimated the figure was closer to 200.

Protesters chanted "Free, Free Palestine" and "Down, Down Israel" as sales shoppers watched. Banners carried the messages "Stop Israeli Terrorism" and "Stop Israeli Crimes".

Ali Jafai, 26, who held aloft an effigy of a blood-soaked victim of the strikes, said: "It really is bad what's happening in Gaza and the world is just watching. We are looking for peace."

Birmingham University engineering student Ali Afana, 25, has lived most of his life in Gaza. He said: "It's a disaster for the whole world. I don't think Israel will stop now. They will continue attacking Gaza.

"I am very worried for my family in Gaza. I do not know if they are alive or not."

Manzoor Sadaq, from Aston, Birmingham, said he spent seven years in the Gaza Strip, carrying out humanitarian work.

"Innocent Palestinians are being killed by an occupying force and the whole world is doing nothing about it," he said.

The "vigil" in Birmingham was organised by the Midlands Palestinian Community Association (MPCA) and the West Midlands Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

MPCA chairman Kamel Hawwash said: "We condemn Israel's actions and call on the British Government to do the same and to call for an immediate end to the military operation in Gaza and for the unconditional lifting of the siege."

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