Melbourne Free Palestine protest marks 13th week of rallies

Thousands of protesters have braved the pouring rain to attend the pro-Palestine rally in Melbourne’s CBD for the 13th week in a row.

Protesters, draped in ponchos and armed with umbrellas, gathered outside the State Library of Victoria at midday on Sunday, before marching down Swanston St, and along St Kilda Rd, where they continued protesting outside the Victoria Barracks.

Attendees were undeterred by the inclement weather, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting increasing rain of up to 20mm plus the chance of a thunderstorms.

It’s understood no incidents were reported by police.

Sunday’s rally coincided with the 93rd day of conflict between the Israeli government and Palestinian-occupied Gaza Strip, following Hamas’ deadly attacks in October.

Organiser Muayed Ali of the Free Palestine Melbourne group demanded the Australian government withdraw its support for Israel.

“This is a very dangerous time for Australia,” he said prior to Sunday’s demonstration.

“20 years ago the Howard Government joined in the invasion of Iraq at the bidding of the United States and the Australian Israel lobby. Now Israel is doing its best to get America and Australia into another war in the Middle East.”

“We are demanding that Australia stay out of Israel’s wars and cease its support for the Gaza genocide by halting all arms sales to Israel and all co-operation with the Israeli military.”

It’s estimated nearly 22,000 Palestinians have died in the conflict since October, which has also killed about 170 Israeli soldiers.

On Tuesday, Israeli officials said it would be withdrawing some of its reservists troops from Gaza, however a government official told Reuters they believed the military operation would continue for at least another six months.

Escalating tensions between Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Israeli government is also threatening an expansion of war in Lebanon.

Tensions between the two countries escalated after the assassination of senior Hamas figure Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, on Tuesday.

While Israel have not claimed responsibility for the attack, the cross-border conflict led to Hezbollah retaliating with rocket fire in northern Israel on Saturday.

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