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COP28 protesters call for Gaza ceasefire, in first UAE pro-Palestine protest

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators participating in a protest against the Israeli war on Gaza hold a sign at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, on Dec. 3, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by AP)

Protesters have gathered on the sidelines of the COP28 UN climate summit in the United Arab Emirates to show solidarity with the people in the besieged Gaza Strip in the first UAE pro-Palestine demonstration.

On Sunday, more than 100 protesters and activists in the Dubai Expo City held banners calling for a “ceasefire” and “climate decolonization” and chanted “Free, Free Palestine.”

“We are seeking an end to the siege, end to the occupation,” Palestinian-American Tariq Luthun told Reuters after taking part in an earlier, smaller demonstration calling for a ceasefire.

Jacob Maurice Johns, an Indigenous activist from North America, said Palestinian voices were being silenced and needed the world to stand in solidarity with them.

Demonstrations in the UAE, in general, are an unusual sight as political freedom of expression is limited. However, as hosts of the annual climate conference, it allows protests to take place at COP28.

According to Reuters, so far, there have been no demonstrations outside the COP28 site.

Moreover, UN restrictions prevent protesters from raising Palestinian flags or chanting certain slogans. UN guidelines prohibit naming states, leaders, or companies in activist actions within the COP venue.

While delegates from nearly 200 countries are making efforts to limit global warming at COP28, the Israeli war on Gaza, now in its eighth week, spilled over at the UN COP28 climate talks.

On Thursday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi announced he would not attend COP28 and that Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian would take part instead.

However, later on Friday the Iranian delegate also walked out of UN climate talks in protest over the presence of Israeli representatives, what Mehrabian said was “contrary to the goals and guidelines of the conference.”

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas also canceled his planned visit to COP28.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not attend the meeting, despite being scheduled to give the first speech.

No reason was given for the last-minute cancellation.

Several other world leaders took the chance to lament the Israel war against Gaza that has left thousands dead.

“It is impossible not to touch on the humanitarian crisis taking place in Palestinian territories close to us,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the environmental meeting.

Erdogan also described the incidents in Gaza as a “war crime,” while his Colombian and Cuban counterparts both called the war a “genocide.”

Iraqi President Abdel Latif Rashid also used his speech to “condemn the aggressive assault against Gaza.”

“We call upon the international community to stand firm against this assault,” he added.

Israeli regime forces launched the war on Gaza on October 7 after the territory’s Palestinian resistance movements began Operation al-Aqsa Storm against the occupying entity in response to the occupant regime forces’ decades-long campaign of intimidation and massacre of Palestinians and taking their land.

More than 15,500 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, in Israeli regime forces relentless airstrikes, with many more still missing and unaccounted for and feared to be dead under the rubble.

At least 40,000 Palestinians have been wounded since the beginning of Israel’s genocidal war on the coastal territory.

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