Hundreds of Australians have marched in solidarity with Palestinians, some releasing flares on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in protest at the Israeli government’s declaration of war against Hamas in response to its deadly attack.
The rally, organised by the Palestine Action Group Sydney, demanded Australia cut ties with Israel and urged supporters to “protest in solidarity with Palestine”.
Attendees marched from Town Hall to the harbour foreshore on Monday evening, where the iconic Opera House sails were lit in blue and white in support of Israel.
NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong shared the event details on Twitter, describing the decision illuminate the landmark as “appalling”.
“What about all of the Palestinian lives lost since occupation?” she asked.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for restraint.
“I absolutely believe (the march) should not (go ahead),” he earlier told Sydney radio 2GB.
“People need to really take a step back.”
Speaking from Town Hall, activist and academic Fahad Ali called on the crowd to resist Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“We’ve suffered 75 years of dispossession, denied our rights to life and liberty, under an ever-worsening occupation by a colonial regime that has perpetrated every kind of atrocity upon us,” he said.
Hundreds of attendees cheered as dozens of people waved Palestinian and Aboriginal flags.
“Resistance is justified when Palestine is occupied,” supporters chanted as the crowd marched down Pitt Street.
“Free free Palestine,” others shouted back.
NSW Police said officers would be present at the rally and “work with protesters to ensure is were no breaches of the peace and there is minimal impact to the community” the force said in a statement.
Large crowds also gathered in Sydney’s southwest on Sunday where Hamas’ attacks on Israel were celebrated as acts of “courage” and “resistance”.
Those surprise attacks killed 400 people and wounded thousands of others, before Israel retaliated.
In Lakemba, footage emerged of a group chanting “occupation is the crime” and “Palestine will be free”.
Many held signs, including “stop persecuting Muslims” and “stand for the oppressed”.
Sheikh Ibrahim Dadoun told the crowd the attacks on Israel were an act of resistance.
“I’m elated, it’s a day of courage, it’s a day of pride, it’s a day of victory – this is the day we’ve been waiting for,” he said.
“Seventy-five years of occupation, 15 years of blockade.
“What happened yesterday was the first time our brothers and sisters broke through the largest prison on earth.”
Mr Albanese condemned the comments.
“There’s nothing to celebrate by the murder of innocent civilians going about their day,” he said.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the remarks “don’t have any place in Australian society” and “for people to somehow provide moral support to those actions is an absolutely appalling act.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry spokesman Alex Ryvchin described the rally as a “sickening display from people with no souls and no humanity”.
“Worshippers of death, rape and misery have no place in civilised society,” he said.
But the Lebanese Muslim Association accused the government of hypocrisy in its support of Israel, describing the treatment of Indigenous Australians as akin to the “persecution inflicted on the people of Palestine by Israel”.
“Our First Nations people, the good citizens of Palestine and other oppressed peoples around the world should all be regarded as the same,” the association said.
The Australian National Imams Council said the government should avoid “one-sided statements of support which ignore the Palestinian people”.