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Thousands join Brussels march for Gaza ceasefire

07:10 20/03/2024

An estimated 7,500 people took part in a march for Palestine held in Brussels over the weekend, according to police counts.

This is the fifth such march since violence broke out in Gaza back in October, Bruzz reports, and organisers put their count at 30,000 participants.

Those groups included some 60 organisations, including the association 11-11-11, the FGTB and Amnesty International.

“We send photos of the march and messages of solidarity to friends in Gaza, and they feel the support,” one demonstrator told Bruzz.

People came out in spite of a poor weather forecast, and Ludo De Brabander of Vrede VZW - an organisation centred around activism regarding international politics and issues related to development and peace - also noted that the turnout was high despite “the risk of normalisation of the war”.

“It’s not only the bombing of Gaza, but also the food shortage, famine and its inhumane consequences that are becoming more and more visible, and there is some increased international pressure to do something about the humanitarian situation, but it remains far from enough,” De Brabander said.

“The EU is speaking out diplomatically, but is not moving towards decisive sanctions against Israel.

"The United States participates in those inefficient and expensive food drops over Gaza, but at the same time supplies weapons to Israel: a very cynical attitude. Meanwhile, a huge amount of truck traffic carrying humanitarian aid is stuck at the border with Egypt."

Pressure has been increasing on Israel to facilitate humanitarian access to Gaza by land, and a maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza is in the pipeline.

Activist Lema Nazeeh, who has family in the West Bank, said these were hopeful signs but by no means enough.

“Humanitarian support is constantly compromised by Israel,” said Nazeeh. “These alternative routes may be hopeful, but they fall short and are ineffective.

"Essential overland aid is needed. It cannot be that the international community has to find alternatives because Israel is not fulfilling its responsibilities."

The thousands of protestors on Sunday gathered near Brussels-North station wearing Palestinian flags and keffiyehs, chanting “Free Palestine” and “Stop genocide”.

“It's important to be here,” said François Graas, campaigns and advocacy coordinator at Amnesty International.

“There is currently a serious human rights crisis. The international community must act to stop this massacre.

"There is a risk of genocide. We need an immediate ceasefire, and we need to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. All the hostages taken on 7 October must also be released."

Demonstrators and associations are also calling on the Belgian government to do everything in its power to put an end to the war and the oppression of the Palestinian people, saying the state should support the legal action taken against Israel before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

“The Belgian government has taken the sympathetic step of sending humanitarian aid to Gaza, which is good, but it's not the way to stop the genocide,” said Pierre Galand, president of the Belgian-Palestinian association.

“We need to force a military embargo against Israel in order to put an end to all forms of complicity.”

Photo: Hatim Kaghat/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons