Around 200 protesters took to King Street Roundabout in Oldham to call for a ceasefire as fighting in Gaza enters its second week.

The most recent conflict broke out after Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7 in which more than 1,000 people were killed and nearly 200 were taken hostage.

@theoldhamtimes Around 200 Oldhamers took to King Street roundabout on Wednesday, October 19, to protest the ongoing conflict in Gaza #Israel #Palestine #Oldham ♬ original sound - The Oldham Times

Since then, Israel has staged a blockade on the Gaza strip, home to around two million people, blocking water, electricity, and other supplies from reaching the area – with one million civilians told to move to the south of the strip by Israel as it launches retaliatory attacks.

More than 4,000 were dead and one million people displaced by October 17, according to a press briefing by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Oldham Times: Protesters gathered at the roundaboutProtesters gathered at the roundabout (Image: Jack Fifield, Newsquest)

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‘People are horrified’

Oldhamers at Wednesday evening’s protest called for a ceasefire, echoing calls from the UN secretary-general and Oldham MP Debbie Abrahams. It was the second protest in a matter of days, following a rally on Sunday.

The Oldham Peace and Justice group, which organised the protest, called for an end to the ‘collective punishment’ of Gaza residents, and accused Israel of committing war crimes.

Group member Jackie Burke said: “People are horrified, people are sad, people are distressed, and it’s really important that everybody gets together and shares that together, it’s a good outlet for people’s frustration and distress.

“We’re distressed at the bombing of Gaza, and the fact that people are trapped there, that they can’t get out. When they do try and get out, they’re attacked. It’s just a humanitarian disaster.”

The Oldham Times: Jackie Burke, from Oldham Peace and JusticeJackie Burke, from Oldham Peace and Justice (Image: Jack Fifield, Newsquest)

Border crossings between the strip and neighbouring Israel and Egypt have been closed since the war began. However, Egypt has now agreed to open the Rafah crossing to allow trucks with humanitarian aid to enter the area from Friday, according to US President Joe Biden.

Ms Burke continued: “Children are children, babies are babies, women are women, men are men, the whole world around – everybody deserves that balance.

“Collective punishment is never, ever the answer, and that’s what’s happening – it’s collective punishment. Punishing civilians and innocent people is never the answer to anything. Talking is the answer.

“I’d like the UK government to start talking properly and openly, in a more balanced fashion and saying that it’s wrong, that what Israel’s done is disproportionate and it’s wrong, and they should call for a ceasefire immediately.”

The Oldham Times: Afshan Abubakar's finacée is in Gaza, she is hoping a cease-fire could save his lifeAfshan Abubakar's finacée is in Gaza, she is hoping a cease-fire could save his life (Image: Jack Fifield, Newsquest)

‘From the river to the sea’

The protest, which was attended by around 150 to 200 people, saw a visible police presence of around nine officers, who mostly stuck to the edges.

Police on the ground said there had been no crimes committed by attendees.

Some at the protest were heard warning attendees not to speak to the media, and some chanted phrases including ‘Israel is a terror state’ and ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ – which have been criticised as antisemitic by some groups who see the phrase as code for calling for the destruction of Israel.

Last week, Home Secretary Suella Braverman encouraged police to consider whether the chant should be considered a racially aggravated Section Five public order offence in a letter to police chiefs.

A minority at the protest could also be seen with coloured 'smoke bombs' and a few fireworks were set off.

Many at the protest held banners and chanted phrases including ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Cease Fire’ – to much supporting honking from passing motorists.

The Oldham Times: Police mostly stuck to the sides of the protestPolice mostly stuck to the sides of the protest (Image: Jack Fifield, Newsquest)

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‘It's heartbreaking’

Hollins resident Leighanne Parvez said that people need to be made aware of the conflict.

She said: “I’ve got friends in Gaza on social media, I’ve known them for many years. The videos that they’re sending me, it’s heartbreaking.

“There’s nothing, they’re told to leave and evacuate, then they’re bombed, when does it stop? It’s a humanitarian crisis.

The Oldham Times: Leighanne ParvezLeighanne Parvez (Image: Jack Fifield, Newsquest)

“It makes me sick, it makes me not want to be here, if this is the way that humans are behaving and the way that the world is going.”

Asked what she would like to see as a result of the protest, the 37-year-old mum said: “I would like Palestine to be free.

"I would like them to have their lives back. I would like them to be able to live, and go on holidays – they don’t get to go on holidays anywhere, it’s the largest open-air prison in the world.

“They’re so oppressed, I just want them to be free, I want their children to be happy and not wonder when the next bomb’s going to hit, which family member they’re going to lose next.”