Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Protesters take message over war in Gaza to Luxon’s Botany office

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People calling for a ceasefire in the war in Gaza in the Middle East staged a protest in front of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s local electorate office on January 24. Times photo Chris Harrowell

A small but vocal group of protesters carrying Palestinian flags and waving signs have taken their call for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas to the east Auckland office of Prime Minister and Botany MP Christopher Luxon.

Members of the group, which included a handful of children, were on the front lawn and footpath in front of Luxon’s office in Northpark on January 24.

Several of the protesters told the Times they belong to the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa.

The signs they were waving carried messages including “Toot 4 a free Palestine”, “Beep 4 a ceasefire”, and “Luxon cares more about trade than tamariki (children)”.

The latest war in Gaza began when the Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out a terror attack inside Israel on October 7 last year that left at least 1139 people, mainly civilians, dead.

Hamas also kidnapped about 240 others and took them back to Gaza.

In retaliation, the Israeli Government has carried out a bombing campaign in Gaza which the area’s Health Ministry says has so far claimed the lives of at least 25,000 Palestinians.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently labelled the large number of civilian deaths in Gaza as “heart-breaking and utterly unacceptable”.

Earlier this month the UN relief agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, and the UN World Food Programme warned of the threat of starvation and disease in heavily built-up areas in Gaza.

The protesters at Luxon’s electorate office also expressed strong opposition to the coalition Government’s plan to send a six-member New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) team to the Middle East to uphold maritime security in the Red Sea.

The move comes in the wake of attacks against ships by the Houthi rebel group, which is based in Yemen, in protest of Israel’s ongoing bombing of Gaza.

Luxon made the announcement at his regular post-Cabinet press conference at the Beehive in Wellington on January 23.

He said the NZDF team will contribute to the collective self-defence of ships in the Middle East, in accordance with international law, from operational headquarters in the region and elsewhere.

It’s part of a continuous New Zealand defence contribution to maritime security in the Middle East since 2013, he said.

“Houthi attacks against commercial and naval shipping are illegal, unacceptable and profoundly destabilising.

“This deployment, as part of an international coalition, is a continuation of New Zealand’s long history of defending freedom of navigation both in the Middle East and closer to home.”

Rana, left, and Dre Wilson were among the protest group. Times photo Chris Harrowell

Three police officers were at the scene of the protest outside Luxon’s electorate office to monitor the situation. Luxon was not present at his office at the time.

Kerry Sorensen-Tyrer, who spoke for the protest group, says its members oppose efforts by New Zealand to “help fight against Houthis”.

“Fighting against one of the poorest countries in the world [Yemen] and yet they aren’t sending anything to help the people of Palestine, who are literally under attack 24/7.

“It’s a humanitarian crisis. This is just a very peaceful event to raise awareness.

“We want a ceasefire and we want it for both sides.

“We want those [Israeli] hostages released and the Palestinian hostages and everyone who is detained.

“Innocent people should not be kept prisoner but they also should not be murdered, which is what is happening.”

Sorensen-Tyrer says she wants people to “have a heart” when it comes to the tragedy in Gaza.

“We are watching live on our screens people dying and begging for help and Israel is stopping aid.

“They are stopping people from being helped in Palestine, especially in Gaza. I am beyond appalled.

“They are literally being starved, tortured, murdered, targeted, and I just feel like anyone with a beating heart, please don’t just stand by and do nothing because every voice counts.”

The Prime Minister’s office declined to comment on the protest.

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