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Pro-Palestinian Paris demo given green light

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Pro-Palestinian Paris demo given green light
A pro-palestinian protest has been given the green light in Paris, despite the risks of violence. File photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP
14:34 CEST+02:00
French authorities have given the green light for a pro-Palestinian demo to be held in Paris on Wednesday, after it came under fire for banning previous marches, that nevertheless ended in violence. French PM Manuel Valls has blamed the recent riots on extremist groups.

Demonstrators will march through Paris on Wednesday to denounce Israel's assault on Gaza after authorities gave the rally the green light, despite the recent violence that has blighted other prtoests.

Wednesday's march, organised by the National Collective for a Just Peace between Israelis and Palestinians and will bring together other groups like France's League of Human Rights (LDH) and France Palestine Solidarity as well as trade unions and leftist parties.

Authorities in Paris gave the go ahead for the demo after agreeing a route with organisers that will see marchers head from Denfert-Rochereau to the Invalides. The route was modified so marchers would not pass closeby to Jewish places of worship.

The decision to allow the protest has come after the government has been heavily criticised by the media, rights groups and even members of its own party for fuelling recent violence by banning the protests.

Organisers hailed the decision to permit Wednesday's march as a "victory for democracy and for freedom of expression". Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice however slammed the move as "unacceptable" given the violence of recent days.

OPINION: French ban on protests will just make matters worse

But rather than accept any blame for the troubles that flared in Paris on Saturday and in the suburb of Sarcelles on Sunday, the Prime Minister Manuel Valls instead pointed the finger at extremists.

"A minority of radical forces are taking advantage of the situation," Valls told Le Parisien newspaper in remarks printed Monday, referring to the ongoing Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip in which hundreds have died.

He said certain unspecified "networks and extremist groups are trying to capitalise on this by riding on sentiments of anti-Semitism and hatred" and using it "to foment disorder".

However, Valls also said the large majority of the demonstrators were spurred by "legitimate motives - to display their indignation at the atrocities of the war."

The Israeli-Palestinian offensive has stirred up passions in France -- home to the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in western Europe with around five million Muslims and half a million Jews.

Valls, who was a tough-talking interior minister until his promotion this year in a cabinet reshuffle, said he would not tolerate any violence.

"Public order... is a responsibility and the government assumes its responsibilities," he said.

"I will not give up on the unity of the country in favour of those who want to divide it. There are no Israelis or Palestinians in France, there are only French citizens."

Valls also said there was "great concern among Jews in France," when asked about a a comment by the head of the top Jewish body in France that there was a real fear of "pogroms".

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