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Originally published Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Fiery protests against Israeli offensive erupt in Europe, Lebanon

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Europe and in Lebanon on Saturday, shouting protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

The Associated Press

BERLIN — Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Europe and in Lebanon on Saturday, shouting protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Protesters burned Israeli flags in Sweden and threw shoes at the U.S. consulate in Edinburgh, Scotland. In central London, three officers were hurt when demonstrators hurled shoes and placards at police outside the Israeli Embassy. One officer was knocked unconscious.

But in Innsbruck, Austria, volunteer security personnel arranged by the Islamic organizers of a demonstration moved quickly to surround and protect an elderly man after he suddenly unrolled an Israeli flag in the middle of the protest.

Israel says its 2-week-old offensive is intended to stop Palestinian Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel. Palestinian medical officials say more than 800 people have been killed.

A crowd of 12,000 gathered in London's Hyde Park carrying placards reading "Gaza: Stop the massacre" and chanting "free, free Palestine."

Police said 15 people were arrested after a group of about 2,000 demonstrators clashed with police guarding the Israeli embassy. Two were detained on suspicion of assaulting police officers.

Scores of marches were held across France, the biggest of them in the capital, where police estimated 30,000 people took part. Paris police scuffled with a small group toward the end.

Police estimated that 30,000 people protested in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona, some carrying bloodstained blankets and mock dead bodies of children.

The demonstration had been called by around 300 Catalan groups that have asked the Spanish government to back cease-fire initiatives and to stop all trade, especially arms, with Israel.

In Italy, several thousand people carrying Palestinian flags marched in Milan, Florence and Venice to protest the Israeli offensive.

In Milan, protesters burned a white sheet with the Star of David on it, and some participants carried posters with the Israeli flag and a swastika on them, the ANSA news agency reported.

In Germany, some 8,500 people rallied in Berlin's Alexanderplatz and then marched to the city's main train station. Hundreds of police were deployed along the route, and several Hamas flags were confiscated from the protesters. No serious incidents were reported, however, police said.

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In the western German city of Duisburg, 10,000 people marched.

"We want to show our solidarity with the victims in the Gaza Strip and signal our opposition to the oppression and violence in Gaza," said organizer Engin Karahan.

Nearly 20,000 people marched through the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh in a protest organized by the militant Hezbollah group, a strong ally of Hamas that fought its own war with Israel in the summer of 2006.

They waved Lebanese and Palestinian flags and some carried posters of bloody Palestinian children. "Gaza is the nation's battle," read a banner carried by several of the protesters.

In Norway, police used tear gas to try to disperse at least 1,000 protesters after some hurled bottles, rocks and fired fireworks at officers. Two people were injured and two were taken into custody, said Oslo police spokeswoman Unni Groendal.

Protesters in Sweden tried to break through sealed-off areas at Israel's embassy in Stockholm after a march through the city by 3,000 to 5,000 people.

Thousands of demonstrators in Edinburgh, Scotland, threw shoes at the American consulate — a gesture evoking an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during a recent Baghdad visit. Organizer Ian Hood said the group was angry with the United States for failing to stop the bloodshed in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Athens were joined by several Greek leftist groups to form a crowd of about 2,000 who marched to the Israeli Embassy.

On Friday, more than 60 people were injured during a large demonstration in Algeria's capital, many by stone throwing, the Interior Ministry said. One journalist was left in a coma.

The Interior Ministry said the demonstration was "infiltrated by troublemakers" who looted some shops, damaged cars and destroyed bus stops and other public facilities.

Associated Press reporter Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Lebanon, and reporters across Europe contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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