Protests in London in full swing as Israel PM arrives for visit

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SHAFAQNA - Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators clashed outside British Prime Minister David Cameron’s London residence today ahead of a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Police officers separated the two groups and took away at least two protesters following minor scuffles and chanting by both sides, according to an AFP photographer.

Around 400 pro-Palestinian activists gathered outside Downing Street to protest the visit of Netanyahu, who arrives on Wednesday, but will not meet officially with Cameron until Thursday.

“Arrest Netanyahu” and “war criminal” they chanted, some holding up posters calling for an end to the blockade on Gaza as well as images of the Israeli leader plastered with the words “child killer”.

Others waved flags, including at least two from Lebanon’s powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement.

Facing them were around 100 pro-Israeli demonstrators, many waving the Israeli flag.

Police would not confirm how many protesters had been arrested.

More than 108,000 people have signed a petition urging the arrest of Netanyahu for war crimes, enough for the issue to be considered for debate in Britain’s parliament.

Israel’s embassy in London called the latest petition a “meaningless publicity stunt”.

Last summer, Israel and Hamas militants fought a deadly 50-day war in Gaza which left more than 2,251 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

Britain is pushing for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “will reinforce this message to Mr Netanyahu during his visit,” according to an official response to the petition.

Netanyahu’s office declined say what would be on the agenda for the talks, although the topic of West Bank settlements is likely to come up.

Britain is one of a number of European countries which have been pushing for the separate labelling of products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israel is also deeply concerned by July’s nuclear deal between Iran and major powers—including Britain.

Netanyahu will return to Israel on Friday.

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