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Marchers demand halt to Israeli offensive, call for sanctions

LONDON -- Thousands of people marched in Britain, South Africa, and Egypt yesterday to protest the Israeli offensive in Lebanon, some demanding an immediate halt to the fighting and others pressing for sanctions against Israel.

Protesters in Cairo demanded that Egyptian authorities let them fight in Lebanon with Hezbollah militants battling Israeli forces.

Police in London said 20,000 people joined a march past the US Embassy to Parliament. Organizers -- a coalition of peace, Muslim, Palestinian, and Lebanese groups -- put the turnout at more than 100,000.

``There should be an immediate cease-fire," said Jeremy Corbyn, a lawmaker from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party, adding ``the government's line is incomprehensibly wrong."

Blair has faced domestic criticism, particularly from inside his left-leaning party, for not calling for an immediate cease-fire. The United States and France agreed yesterday on a draft UN Security Council resolution that calls for a halt to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, but would allow Israel to defend itself if attacked.

Veteran peace campaigner Bianca Jagger, former wife of rocker Mick Jagger, said the British protest was not anti-Israel.

``I support the existence of Israel and I think we are wrong to say otherwise," she said. ``But watching the images of innocent children dying as we have been for the last 24 days does not promote a peaceful solution in the region."

In South Africa, thousands marched through Cape Town to Parliament to demand sanctions against Israel.

Demonstrators carried pictures of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Some carried posters declaring, ``Israel the new Nazis."

Protesters urged the South African government to recall its ambassador from Israel and sever diplomatic ties, impose trade sanctions, and prosecute South Africans who serve in the Israeli defense force.

More than 2,000 people marched in downtown Cairo, demanding that authorities allow them to fight in Lebanon, police said.

The crowd shouted anti-Israel slogans and vowed to support the guerrillas.

``We will all be resistance in the Arabs' struggle against Israel!" they yelled. Some set Israeli and US flags on fire.

The protest was organized by Egypt's banned, but tolerated, main opposition Muslim Brotherhood and the Lawyers Syndicate, the national attorneys' union.

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, told a local weekly edition newspaper Thursday that his group was prepared to send 10,000 ``holy warriors" to help Hezbollah if the government permits.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said Egypt will not be dragged into the conflict militarily.

In Austria, about 350 people marched through central Vienna to protest Israel's military campaign.

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