(AFP) – French police have banned a protest against Israel’s Gaza offensive that was due to take place in Paris on Saturday, following several similar rallies that turned violent.
The ban, announced by police on Friday, comes in the wake of clashes earlier this month at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in which some protesters shouted anti-Semitic slogans and fought with police.
Two of the rallies had been banned but went ahead anyway.
Following Friday’s announcement, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on the organisers to cancel the rally.
“I urge the organisers to abandon the event on Saturday,” he told AFP, accusing them of taking a “high-risk path” if they went ahead.
But a lawyer representing the organisers of the rally said they had lodged a legal challenge against the ruling.
“The government is trying to ban a fundamental right”, said Omar Alsoumi, an organiser of the protest and member of the Palestinian Youth movement.
On Wednesday, several thousand people protested peacefully in Paris against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
Police said the rally gathered about 14,500 people, while organisers put the figure at 25,000.
The government, which had banned the prior protests seeking to restrain what it called anti-Semitic radicals, authorised the march after its organisers gave “security guarantees.”
Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which is in its 18th day, has killed more than 800 Palestinians and 33 Israelis.
The conflict has stirred up huge passions in France — home to the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in western Europe with around five million Muslims and half a million Jews.