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Thousands join London protests

LONDON -- Thousands of demonstrators marched through London and hundreds more gathered in Amsterdam yesterday to protest Israeli attacks in Lebanon and the refusal of the US and British governments to condemn them.

Police said about 7,000 people joined the London protest as it snaked from the banks of the Thames to Hyde Park, first in brilliant sunshine and then in torrential rain.

``Having seen the devastation on our TV screens in recent days, it's impossible to view the Israeli response as anything other than a gross over reaction," said Yasmin Ataullah, spokeswoman for the British Muslim Initiative, one of the groups behind the rally.

Hundreds more protesters took to the streets of Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, and Sheffield.

In Amsterdam, about 700 people gathered near Dam Square to condemn the Israeli assault, which has killed 349 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, in the past 11 days. The protest came two days after about 2,000 pro-Israeli demonstrators gathered in Amsterdam.

A similar show of solidarity with Israel is planned near London tonight, and will be addressed by Britain's chief rabbi.

``Israel has the right to defend itself against unprovoked attacks on sovereign soil," said Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Much of the anger expressed yesterday at the London protest was directed at the British government for its refusal to openly condemn Israel's actions and call for an immediate cease - fire.

Meanwhile, in Cairo yesterday , Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy of France called for an immediate cessation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, saying their conflict risked destroying the Lebanese state. ``We must note the severity of the situation . . . and call for humanitarian corridors, call for the immediate cessation of hostilities, and find all the conditions for a cease - fire," Douste-Blazy told a news conference in the Egyptian capital.

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