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30,000 stage UK pro-Israeli rally

LONDON, England --More than 30,000 people have rallied in London's landmark Trafalgar Square in one of Britain's biggest shows of support for Israel in 20 years.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks were among the speakers who addressed the rally.

Police said a counter-demonstration nearby organised by Muslim groups attracted about 400 supporters, who were accusing Israel of state terrorism.

Standing on a specially erected stage, and also visible on a huge TV screen overlooking the square, Netanyahu thanked British Jews and all Britons for their support.

He told how if it had not been for Britain's resistance to Nazism the course of history may have been very different, the Press Association reported.

"Britain stands before another road now and it must choose between two opposing paths. The path of appeasing terror or the path of confronting terror."

Calling on other nations to support Israel, Netanyahu added: "Israel is determined to fight. The question isn't whether Israel will fight but whether we will fight alone."

Netanyahu, amid huge cheering, labelled Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a terrorist and said: "The path to peace does not go through Arafat, it does not go around Arafat, it must go over Arafat."

The former Israeli leader said the only route to peace would be with the ousting of Arafat and a new leader put in his place.

But Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told PA: "We simply felt the Israeli rally was provocative and felt we needed to campaign against that.

"We feel that in the light of the recent massacre in Jenin it's extremely insensitive to organise a rally and blatantly say they support the state of Israel. It is offensive."

Eight days of violence last month in Jenin, a West Bank refugee camp with about 14,000 Palestinians, produced scores of casualties and a firestorm of controversy. (Jenin camp became combat zone)

Israel contends the camp was a training ground and operational base for terrorists. It accuses Palestinian fighters of dangerously mingling with civilians.

Palestinians called the Israeli incursion a massacre, accusing Israeli forces of not differentiating between civilians and gunmen and using children and others as human shields. Israel has emphatically denied there was a massacre.

Human Rights Watch, the only international agency to investigate the conflict in detail, agreed with Israel that there was no massacre in Jenin, and blamed both Israeli and Palestinian fighters for the violence.

Up to 1,000 extra officers were on duty in central London to guard against violence and possible terrorist attacks and police marksmen were deployed in buildings overlooking the rally.

Organised by a range of organisations across the British Jewish community, the rally coincided with hopes of an end to the six-week standoff at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Washington.

 
 
 
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