Pro-Palestinian protesters block bridge outside UK parliament

LONDON (Reuters) – Pro-Palestinian protesters blocked roads outside the British parliament in London on Saturday, demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict and clashing with police who prevented them from marching across Westminster Bridge.

London, like other Western cities, has seen regular and sometimes large demonstrations calling for Israel to halt the bombardment of Gaza triggered by a surprise Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants that Israeli officials say killed more than 1,200 people. Palestinian health officials say 22,722 people have so far been killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Videos posted on social media showed police blocking protesters’ access to the bridge and a Reuters reporter said there had been several small scuffles. Unable to fully access the bridge, where they had planned to unfurl banners, protesters instead occupied the surrounding roads.

Police said they had imposed a legal order limiting the location of the protests and that by 3 p.m. (1500 GMT) people had begun to disperse. Those who refused to comply with an order to leave could be arrested, police said.

Saturday’s action was smaller than previous mass marches but comes two days before the British parliament returns to work after its Christmas break. The protest was designed to push politicians to adopt a harder stance towards Israel.

So far, Britain has stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire, with foreign minister David Cameron arguing that any such agreement could be unsustainable and may worsen violence without a plan for longer term peace.

Most previous protests in London have been coordinated with police and remained largely peaceful but police said the organisers of Saturday’s protests had refused to share details of their plans.

(Reporting by Hollie Adams and William James; Editing by Gareth Jones)