LONDON - Pro-Palestinian demonstrators disrupted a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the world-famous Proms concerts in London on Thursday, forcing the BBC to cut short a radio broadcast of the performance.

The orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, had just begun playing at the Royal Albert Hall when a group of protesters in the stalls stood up, started singing and held up towels bearing letters that spelled "Palestine", a BBC spokeswoman said.

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Security guards removed the protesters from the hall.

At the start of the remaining three pieces on the program, small groups of protesters stood up and began shouting and were removed in turn, the spokeswoman said.

The orchestra continued playing but the BBC decided to take the performance off Radio 3, a national radio station broadcasting it live, because the music could not be heard properly, she said.

BBC television said it was the first time Radio 3 had had to interrupt a broadcast of the Proms, a summer-long festival of music, because of a protest. It said other audience members at the sold-out performance booed the protesters.

Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups held rival demonstrations outside the ornate concert hall.

A group of Palestinian cultural organizations had issued a statement calling on the BBC to cancel the Israeli orchestra's concert and urging people to boycott or protest against the event if it did go ahead.

The statement, on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign's web site, said the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is "Israel's finest cultural emissary and travels throughout the world ... The goodwill created by these tours ... is of enormous value to the State of Israel."

The BBC said it had expected the protests and took extra security measures.

Israeli-American violinist Gil Shaham also took part in the concert of works by Webern, Bruch, Albeniz and Rimsky Korsakov.

London police said the situation had been dealt with by the Proms' own security

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