“SAKHNIN, Israel – Tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs demonstrated on Saturday in the northern town of Sakhnin over Israel’s week-old offensive against the Gaza Strip.
Organisers estimated that nearly 100,000 people attended the protest rally, which stretched through the city streets.
Crowds waving Palestinian flags and brandishing pro-Palestinian placards chanted “Gaza will not surrender to the tanks and bulldozers!” and “Don’t fear, Gaza, we are with you!”
Thousands of police deployed on the outskirts of Sakhnin and across northern Israel following a number of protests against the Gaza operation in recent days.
Following a minute’s silence, Sakhnin Mayor Mazem Ghanaim called for an immediate halt to the Gaza offensive which Israel launched last Saturday against the besieged territory.
The Israeli offensive has killed more than 440 Palestinians and wounded more than 2,290.
According to the UN, one quarter of the Palestinian victims were civilians.
“The Israeli occupation forces are conducting crimes in Gaza before the eyes of the international community. We call for an immediate stop to the Gaza offensive,” Ghanaim told the crowd.
He also called on Gaza resistance fighters to halt their rocket fire against southern Israel, which have killed four people over the past eight days.
Israeli Arab MP Mohammed Barakeh said the Sakhnin demonstration was “our answer to the Israeli threats against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”
“We are determined to stand alongside our brothers in Gaza to stop the bloodshed and massacre,” Barakeh said.
Israeli Arabs have staged several big demonstrations since Israeli warplanes launched air strikes in Gaza.
Some protesters in Sakhnin called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a “coward” and accused him of “collaborating with the Americans.”
Israel has often come under international criticism for ‘racism’ and mistreatment of its Arab minority, who are the original inhabitants of the land and today make up one fifth of its total population.
The Arab population is comprised of the descendants of the Palestinians who remained in their land despite being subjected to an Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing during the creation of Israel.