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19 Jul, 2014 11:26

Thousands attend pro-Palestine rally in New Zealand (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Thousands attend pro-Palestine rally in New Zealand (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Several thousand people are estimated to have marched through central Auckland to protest the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, which, along with previous airstrikes, have resulted in over 300 deaths in under two weeks’ time.

LIVE UPDATES: Israel launches ground incursion in Gaza Strip

Marchers with umbrellas, placards and Palestinian flags in hand took to the heart of New Zealand’s most populous city to show solidarity with the people of Gaza on Saturday. Estimates range between several hundred and several thousand attendees, though footage posted by OccupyNZ indicates the latter figure is likely more accurate.

Big turnout for Free Gaza protest in central Auckland pic.twitter.com/EVKZypFXUk

— Katie Bradford (@katieabradford) July 19, 2014

Chants of “Free, free Palestine!” and “One, two three, four, we don’t want your bloody war!” rang out through the streets as a large black and white banner with the phrase ‘Free Palestine’ headed up the procession down Queens Street.

Many held placards with phrases like ‘All children desire peace’ and ‘Free Gaza.’

Beautiful children in solidarity with #NZ4Gazapic.twitter.com/CZ2TPu4Oex

— Decentralise Occupy (@endarken) July 19, 2014

Some, however, were far more acerbic in their criticism, defacing the Israeli flag with a swastika or juxtaposing the Star of David with the Nazi symbol to protest Israeli policy in the region.

Photo posted by Rashed Al Shaya on Facebook.com

There were also calls to shut down the Israeli embassy in the city.

Photo posted by Rashed Al Shaya on Facebook.com

A counter-demonstration was also held, though no violent altercations were reported when the two sides crossed paths near the Britomart transport hub.

Can't even begin to fit all those present into one photo #NZ4Gaza John Minto now on the mic. March stopped midtown pic.twitter.com/ylu2mIo9CN

— Decentralise Occupy (@endarken) July 19, 2014

1000s of #NZ4GAZA supporters flood Queen St Auckland pic.twitter.com/FschIKcM1U

— Decentralise Occupy (@endarken) July 19, 2014

Protesters later marched to the US consulate on Customs Street to show their opposition to the country's economic and military ties to Israel, holding a moment of silence outside the compound for those who have died since the ground invasion of Gaza kicked off on Friday.

People also laid olive tree branches outside the building, one for each life lost since the latest outbreak of violence hit the region.

"I'm just so sad about all the innocent women and children being killed in Palestine,"
Diane Sisley, who made a peace offering outside the US consulate, told the Herald on Sunday. "I think it's such an unequal, disgusting war."

The protest concluded with the song, 'We are all Palestinians.'

A moment of silence for the dead in Palestine, in front of the US consulate in Auckland. #nz4gazapic.twitter.com/Q6WanZ9g1D

— Daniel (@DMcdougall7) July 19, 2014

Earlier this week, foreign affairs minister Murray McCully said, “New Zealand fully supports the United Nations Security Council's call for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza."

Associate foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff, meanwhile, said Israelis, Palestinians and the international community should all take the initiative by making the necessary compromises to achieve lasting peace.

“The Israeli retaliation is always disproportionate," he said in regards the most recent military escalation. "Having been there many times I can understand why the Palestinian people are bitter."

He added, however, that the Jewish state had a right to protect itself from Gaza-based rocket attacks.

"Israel is a fact of life. It has a right to stable borders and peace but so do the Palestinian people."

While the action in Auckland went off peacefully, others have spiraled out of control.

Rally in Auckland, NZ. #NZ4Gaza#nz2palestine . Stop the bombing pic.twitter.com/F8hFtcRvfF

— Papa Nahi (@papanahi) July 19, 2014

On Friday, Israel decided to reduce its diplomatic delegation in Turkey to the “minimum required” after violent pro-Palestinian protests hit Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul.

On Thursday, France moved to block pro-Palestinian protests throughout the country after a previous march turned ended in bloodshed. After 10,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Paris on Sunday, some protesters turned violent, lobbing rocks at police, who responded with tear gas.

Three synagogues were also assaulted by rioters, with up to 200 people trapped inside one of them. Three Jews sustained injuries in the attacks and were sent to hospital.

However, a group of 150 men allegedly linked to the Jewish Defence League were also seeing clashing with pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Some of them could be seen brandishing iron bars and cans of pepper spray.

Read More: 'In our millions, we’re all Palestinian’: Wave of protests worldwide demand end to Gaza slaughter

France 'bans pro-Palestinian rallies' as tensions increasingly mirror Israel-Gaza animosity

Israel reduces diplomatic staff in Turkey following violent pro-Palestinian protests