Pro-Israel demonstration in Paris during Operation Protective Edge on July 31, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Thousands of people participated on Thursday in the first demonstration in support of Israel in Paris since the launch of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip.
Over three weeks the conflict has led to more than 1,400 Palestinian deaths, including several civilians, and almost 60 deaths on the Israeli side.
In response to a call made by the Jewish community's umbrella group CRIF, some 4,500 protesters, according to the police, gathered in front of the Israeli embassy in the French capital's 8th arrondissement.
Parisian protester Esther Azoulay told Reuters Television she was demonstrating to call for peace in the Middle East.
"Israelis have a right to live, we are a peaceful people, we do not want war, we want peace, let us have peace please, we want peace, we do not want to kill people, we are sad, really unhappy to see all these poor Palestinians die. It's unnecessary. They must live as well, but we want peace, tell Hamas: 'stop'," she said.
Israel began its offensive on July 8 with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket fire and tackling Hamas's tunnel network.
Gaza officials say at least 1,410 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and nearly 7,000 wounded. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza clashes and more than 400 wounded. Three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling in Israel.
The pro-Israeli protest in Paris was heavily secured by French police, who were controlling access to the demonstration and searching bags.
Attendee Simon Berrebi said he was concerned at the rise of anti-semitism in France, which has the largest Jewish population in Europe, since the conflict.
"The French government currently does not realize the push of extremism, of anti-semitism and we find ourselves today with acts like those in the worst years of anti-semitism. I wanted to come to support Israel which is in a legitimate combat, since it's legitimate defense," he told Reuters Television.
A pro-Palestinian protest was also organised in Paris on Thursday in the north-east of the city. Demonstrators lay on the ground to symbolize the people killed during the conflict.
Several Pro-Palestinian protests have taken place in France since the start of Israel's offensive, during which anti-semitic chants have been heard, pushing authorities to intervene in two demonstrations in Paris and the nearby suburb of Sarcelles, although Thursday's protest remained peaceful.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, facing international alarm over a rising civilian death toll in Gaza, said on Thursday he would not accept any cease-fire that stopped Israel completing the destruction of terrorists' infiltration tunnels.