By Najma Sambul
Draped in Palestinian flags, holding placards and wearing traditional chequered scarves, thousands of protesters took to Melbourne’s streets for a second consecutive week calling for an end to the war in Gaza.
Marching in wintry rain and wind, people hugged, cried and shouted in support of those caught in the conflict.
Victoria Police put the crowd at 15,000, and it brought large parts of the CBD to a standstill as it marched from the State Library to Parliament House.
The diverse and passionate crowd called for a ceasefire in the two-week-old conflict and the liberation of the Palestinian people.
The crowd chanted, “free, free, Palestine” and “out, out Israel, out,” and held placards reading “stop killing innocent people”.
It was one of dozens of protests held supporting Palestinians since the Israeli government’s retaliatory attack began in response for the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas which killed more than 1400 people, mostly civilians.
The Melbourne protest follows a 20,000-person gathering in Sydney on Saturday and 100,000 in London.
So far, over 4000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza during sustained Israeli air and artillery strikes, with over half being women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.
Keith Langford, 74, said his humanity brought him out to march on Sunday.
“I think the Palestinian cause is one for all human beings to get behind because it is so unjust. You just can’t see Palestinians suffering. Their land shouldn’t have been taken away from them in the first place.”
Inas Mahboub, an Egyptian-Australian, criticised western media for “ignoring” the Palestinian side of the conflict.
“I lived in Egypt and I can see how the media is not hearing the Palestinian side, especially in the west,” she said.
“The west needs to condemn the slaughtering of Palestinians including women and children by Israel right now.”
Ben, 26, said he had never attended a Palestine protest before Sunday but was moved to take part after watching videos of the suffering in Gaza online.
“Women and children are dying, and it’s just wrong,” he said.
Over the weekend Israel allowed 20 aid trucks to enter Gaza from Egypt amid warnings of a growing humanitarian catastrophe due to a siege that has cut off supplies of food, fuel and water to the enclave.
“Right now in Gaza there are over 2 million people predominantly children are being starved, dehydrated and bombed,” Federal MP and Greens leader Adam Bandt told the protesters.
“We mourn the 1400 Israelis who lost their lives but also the 4000 Palestinians who lost their lives.”
Police said there were no incidents at the protest. During the demonstration the crowd chanted “From the river to sea, Palestine will be free”.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin expressed concern about the phrase being used at Saturday’s pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney.
“Their calls for the ‘liberation’ of Palestine ‘from the river to the sea’ is an unambiguous call for Israel’s destruction, and the support for a new intifada is a call for the murder of more civilians,” he said.
Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni, who was at the Melbourne’s protests, said that was “deliberate” misrepresentation.
“Israel and its supporters want an exclusivist and racist apartheid regime that rules over all the people between the river and the sea, whereas the chant calls for the freedom and the equality of all, irrespective of race or religion,” he said.
In Melbourne’s east the Jewish community took to Caulfield Park to raise awareness for the Israelis taken hostage by Hamas.