The show of solidarity comes as the death toll from Israel’s war on Gaza surpassed 8,796 Palestinians, including more than 3,648 children.
A number of Arab embassies in London, including Qatar’s mission, have hoisted Palestinian flags alongside their national colours in a bold show of solidarity as Israel continues to wage a deadly war on Gaza.
Pictures shared on social media showed the Qatari and Palestinian flags erected outside the embassy on South Audley St in Central London. Similar scenes were also seen outside the Iraqi embassy at Queens Gate.
The show of solidarity comes as the death toll from Israel’s war on Gaza surpassed 8,796 Palestinians, including more than 3,648 children, triggering outrage worldwide.
Since Israel declared war more than three weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in London to call for an end to the humanitarian catastrophe.
On Saturday, an estimated 500,000 protesters flooded Central London in a mass demonstration organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other prominent anti-war groups.
According to Middle East Eye, Director of PSC Ben Jamal that protesters were “marching today in the most horrendous of situations”.
“Up to yesterday, we knew that over 8,000 Palestinians had already been killed in Gaza, including more than 3,000 children,” he said. “But last night Israel launched a major bombardment and cut off all communications. This is an act of pure barbarism.
“So we are marching today, not knowing how many Palestinians are dead, how many children now lie under the rubble.”
Similar protests have sparked up across much of the Western world, including New York, Paris, Toronto, Madrid, Stockholm, Berlin, Rome, Warsaw, California and as far as Sydney.
On Sunday, a number of pro-Israel demonstrators gathered in front of Qatar’s embassy in London to demand the release of captives held by Hamas in Gaza as the Gulf power continues its mediation efforts to de-escalate the war.
Footage and images that circulated on social media showed hundreds of demonstrators hoisting the Israeli flag as well as signs calling for the release of captives captured by Hamas during its October 7 operation.
Reports from the protest in Mayfair, which reportedly lasted for just over an hour, cited organisers from the Bring Them Home Now initiative saying that Qatar has “positioned itself as a mediator of hostage release”.
“We are reaching out for help. We are reaching out to world leaders, to the Parliament to use whatever means they have at their disposal to bring the hostages home,” Gary Weiss, a member of Bring Them Home Now, told PA news agency.
Qatar’s diplomatic flexing
Qatar, the host of the Hamas political bureau, has been leading negotiations to release civilians from the Palestinian group as part of de-escalation efforts to end the bloodshed in Gaza.
On Wednesday, Qatar brokered an agreement between Egypt, Israel and Hamas in coordination with the United States that allows the evacuation of foreign passport holders and some seriously wounded individuals from Gaza through Rafah, Reuters and Al Jazeera reported.
The reported agreement enables the exit through the shared Gaza-Egypt Rafah crossing, the only portal in and out of the besieged enclave. While Qatar has yet to publicly comment on the reported deal, live footage broadcast on Al Jazeera on Wednesday morning showed hundreds flowing into the Rafah crossing as the gates opened.
However, a source told Reuters that the evacuation agreement is separate from other negotiations currently being undertaken by Doha, which primarily focus on the release of captives from Hamas as well as efforts for humanitarian ceasefires.
The Al Qassam Brigades—Hamas’ armed wing—had captured around 230 people, including members of the Israeli occupation forces (IOF), during the surprise ‘Operation Al Aqsa Flood’ on October 7, when it infiltrated occupied territories through air, land and sea.
The heavyweight Gulf mediator helped free two American captives from Hamas on October 20, both identified as Judith Raanan and Natalie Raanan—a mother and a daughter.
Then on October 23, Qatar and Egypt pushed for the release of two elderly women from Hamas, both identified as 79-year old Nurit Yitzhak and 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz.
On Tuesday, Al-Qassam’s spokesperson Abu Obeida said in a video on Telegram that Hamas informed mediators that it would soon release foreign captives, though he made no mention of Qatari mediation nor the nationalities of those it would free.
Despite the release of the four captives, Israel has intensified its non-stop bombardment on Gaza, making Qatari mediation efforts more challenging.
“With this violence increasing everyday, with this bombing continuous everyday our task has become even more difficult. But despite that, we remain hopeful, we remain committed to our role of reaching out to the parties with the aim of reaching a positive result,” Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammed Al Khulaifi told Sky News on Thursday.
He added: “In any normal scenario, if the mediator wants to perform its task in the best way possible, we need to reach a period of calm, we need to reach a period where we can speak logically to both sides and come up with positive initiatives on that.”
On Tuesday, Qatar condemned an Israeli “massacre against the defenceless Palestinian people” that targeted Gaza’s biggest refugee camp and killed at least 400, just hours before a second strike hit the densely-populated area on Wednesday afternoon.
“Qatar strongly condemns the Israeli bombing of the Jabaliya Camp in Gaza, which resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of innocent people,” a statement from the Gulf country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs read.
“It considers this a new massacre against the defenceless Palestinian people, especially children and women, and calls on the international community to act quickly to stop the killing and destruction.”