Ministers attend COBRA meeting over impact of war on UK

Ministers attend COBRA meeting over impact of Israel-Hamas conflict in the UK amid fears far-Right hooligans will clash with pro-Palestine march on Armistice Day – as PM brands alleged attack on poppy seller ‘repulsive’

Ministers are today holding an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict on Britain – as fears grow of clashes at a controversial pro-Palestine protest on Armistice Day.    

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden will chair the gathering of senior politicians, police chiefs and top officials this afternoon. It will examine a ‘range of areas’ including how to address important issues around ‘community cohesion’.

More than 70,000 people are expected to flock to London on Saturday to rally against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza – a few hours after a two-minute silence will be held at the Cenotaph for fallen servicemen and women.

There are now fears that the march will be confronted by members of the far-Right – with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson writing on Twitter:  ‘Saturday 11/11/11 London, your country needs you.’

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk had urged protesters including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to heed police calls to postpone the march, but today they vowed to press on. 

Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley is facing growing pressure to call for a ban on the demonstration after Mr Dowden said he had ‘grave concerns’ about the event and Rishi Sunak called it ‘provocative and disrespectful’. 

Today, the Prime Minister also condemned an alleged assault on a veteran who was selling poppies during a pro-Palestine rally, calling it ‘repulsive’. Jim Henderson, 78, said he was punched as he tried to leave Waverley Station in Edinburgh.

Police performing a security search around the Cenotaph before today’s State Opening of Parliament 

English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson calls on people to join him in the capital on Saturday

Yesterday, Robinson tweeted: ‘Saturday 11/11/11 London, your country needs you’

More than 70,000 people are expected to flock to central London on Saturday to protest against Israel ‘s bombardment of Gaza. Pictured: Those protesting last Saturday

Mr Henderson, who said served in the Royal Corps of Signals, 32 Signal Regiment in Northern Ireland, claimed the assault happened during the rally while he ran a Poppyscotland stall at the station.

He told the Scottish Daily Mail: ‘I was getting shoved backwards, in danger of falling, and one of them stood on my foot and split my toe.

‘I thought I had got to get the money out of here. So I went down, and as I bent down someone punched me in the back. And then I got another punch in my side.’

He said he managed to get up and was helped by three women wearing red railway uniforms.

READ HERE: Poppy seller veteran, 78, tells how he was punched by pro-Palestine protesters as he fundraised at Scottish station that was besieged by demonstrators

Reacting to the reports, Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said: ‘This was a repulsive act. Mr Henderson, like all our veterans, has made huge sacrifices for our country.

‘We are confident the police will treat this incident very seriously and use the full force of the law available to them.’

Today, Tommy Robinson was among those exploiting tension around the Armistice Day march to try to rally his supporters.     

In a ranting video, the far-Right activist – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – spoke of ‘a mass of men who are willing to stand for their country’. 

The tirade came after Jonathan Hall KC, the independent reviewer of terror legislation, warned that there were concerns of ‘an extreme Right-wing terrorist backlash’ if Saturday’s demonstration against the conflict in the Middle East goes ahead. 

Mr Hall warned that Islamists had used a previous Remembrance Day protest as a ‘recruitment method’.

He added that the demonstration had been used to ‘de-legitimise soldiers’, which was later seen when Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered in 2013. 

This morning, former Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson slammed the pro-Palestine protest as ‘tone deaf’ and ‘insensitive’.

He told LBC: ‘I do think it’s hugely regrettable that organisations think it’s appropriate to march on this particular date on this weekend… At the very least, it would seem to me to be tone deaf and somewhat insensitive.’

The former police boss added: ‘The decision of the Commissioner to apply to the Home Secretary for a ban, I think, is a delicate and tricky one.

‘These judgments may go to the wire, with responsible police leadership working hard to bring about an appeal for common sense resolution.’

Poppy-seller Jim Henderson said he was kicked and punched at Edinburgh Waverley last Saturday 

Social media footage shows the 78-year-old trying to escape

Protesters blew whistles, waved Palestinian flags and held up placards which said ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Boycott Apartheid Israel’

The tensions come after the Home Secretary came under fire for calling the pro-Palestine demonstrations that have taken place in recent weeks ‘hate marches’. 

While the Justice Secretary joined the calls for the demonstration to be postponed, he pointedly distanced himself from using Suella Braverman’s language. 

He made clear that while he would not use the language of ‘hate marchers’ there was no ‘confusion’ on the Government’s standpoint on the demonstrations on Saturday.

READ HERE: Armistice Day under attack: Now JSO protest at the Cenotaph after poppy sellers were swamped by pro-Palestine rallies and forced to pack up and leave – as calls grow for ban on November 11 demonstrations 

Mr Chalk told Radio 4’s Today: ‘There is no doubt there are elements on these marches that I’m afraid are espousing hate … but equally there will be those people who are there expressing their anguish at some of the untold suffering.

‘The concern must be whether those people who have perfectly legitimate intentions and concerns are directly or indirectly supporting those people who are espousing hate.’

Richard Graham, Tory MP for Gloucester, said: ‘Tone matters. It’s our duty to calm not inflame: to reduce, not increase, tensions. The language of the Home Secretary whether on tents or on marches is unhelpful to cohesion in our communities and is not in my name: nor does it reflect how we tackle issues in Gloucester.’

Calls have been made for the protest to be banned on the day of Remembrance but members of the group organising the march – Friends of Al Aqsa – have resisted adding that it plans to uphold its ‘democratic freedoms including the right to protest’.

The group, who have now been urged by the Met Police and Home Secretary Suella Braverman to call off the march, previously said it had ‘no intention of marching on or near Whitehall’ adding that a decision had been made ‘in order to not interfere with the events at the Cenotaph’.

Yesterday the London force warned of a ‘growing’ risk of violence and disorder from breakaway groups from the protest. 

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said: ‘This is of concern ahead of a significant and busy weekend in the capital. 

‘Our message to organisers is clear: Please, we ask you to urgently reconsider. It is not appropriate to hold any protests in London this weekend.’

Pro-Palestine marches have been taking place each Saturday since the conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7 following the terrorist group’s deadly attack

Dismayed British Royal Legion poppy sellers could only look on after pro-Palestine protesters engaged in a sit-in protest at Charing Cross station

Mounted Met Police officers standing guard at the Cenotaph war memorial on Saturday 

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign – who also helped organise the march – said it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the statement. 

It comes as hundreds of mourners gathered today at a vigil outside Downing Street  to mark one month since Hamas fighters attacked Israel.

The vigil was also held to demand the release of the 241 people believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas.

Mourners chanted ‘bring them home’ and held posters of the missing.

Prayers were said, with attendees singing in Hebrew.

Following the prayers, a minute’s silence was also held.

Rose, 63, from North West London said she attended the vigil because she was ‘desperately worried’ about the hostages.

‘I have been coming to as many of these vigils as possible because I am desperately worried about the fate of around 240 people, Jews, Bedouins and Thai workers.

‘They’re all in the gravest of grave danger.

‘Probably living in the most unsatisfactory circumstances, and my humanity says we have to fight to save them.

It comes as hundreds of mourners gathered today at a vigil outside Downing Street to mark one month since Hamas fighters attacked Israel

The vigil was also held to demand the release of the 241 people believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas

She said that Pro-Palestinian protesters should avoid marching on Armistice Day out of respect for what the anniversary means for ‘the majority’ of Britons.

‘I think out of respect for them, and deference for them, I don’t think any other protests should happen that day,’ she said.

Alan Mekibel, 28, lives in Israel, but attended the vigil during a two-day visit to London.

‘I have friends, I have friends of friends, who have been kidnapped, murdered,’ he said.

‘And it’s a very non-bi-partisan reality. On the 6th of October there was a ceasefire, there was nothing, on the 7th there was an outright war.’

He said the international reaction to the attack was ‘scary’.

‘How the world is reacting is scary, a man was killed at a pro-Palestinian protest in Los Angeles last night,’ he said.

‘Schools are being vandalised, my friends are afraid to go to schools in Europe and the United States. It’s not even to show solidarity (this) is what we have to be doing because never again means never again.’

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