Israeli workers tell of fear at Gaza protests

ISRAELI workers have told of their terror when pro-Palestinian protestors stormed an Ulster shop selling products from the Dead Sea.

A mob of around 20 demonstrators tried to trash the Sea Spa store at Castle Court in Belfast city centre to denounce Israel's blitz on Gaza.

Waving Palestinian flags and chucking hundreds of protest leaflets, members of republican group Eirigi chanted "boycott Israeli goods" before they were muscled away by security guards, police and staff from surrounding shops.

Employees at the mini-riot on Saturday, who did not want to be identified, said they were shocked when the protestors burst into the mall.

"There were at least 20 of them flying Palestinian flags, screaming for a boycott and other insults," one told the News Letter yesterday.

"It was shocking that they decided to do it in a placid environment like a shopping centre where we weren't causing any trouble. Everyone was shaken."

The clash happened at around noon and a video captured by a bystander has been posted on YouTube.

More than 2,000 people have viewed the clip and 52 comments have been made on it.

One viewer said: "What happened in Castle Court is an absolute disgrace, shame on this group of morons for destroying someone's business.

"Eirigi is laughable when they protest about things like this."

But another wrote: "Fair play! I saw all those Hamas babies and children who are firing their toys out of their cots at the Zionist Entity being buried on the news tonight."

The incident happened around the time a massive demonstration took place at Belfast City Hall on Saturday against bloodshed in densely-populated Gaza.

Most of the staff at Sea Spa are students who moved from Israel to study in Belfast.

One of them said: "We are well aware we are living in a democratic country where people are free to express all their views.

"We had no problem with the protest at City Hall, but to attack a business just trying to sell Israeli goods is not right. This is not freedom of speech."

They said civilian casualties were a horror in any conflict but Israel had endured eight years of bombing from Hamas.

"People are only getting one side of the conflict now – it's not objective."

A police spokesperson said: "Police are investigating a racially motivated incident at an Israeli beauty products stall in the Castle Court shopping complex on Saturday, January 10, prior to a protest against Israeli action in Gaza in Belfast city centre.

"No one was injured but racist comments were made and leaflets thrown at stallholders. CCTV and internet footage are being examined.”

The peace demonstration at City Hall was attended by convicted IRA bomber Patrick Magee and Eta killer Juan Ignacio de Juana Chaos – still wanted in Spain.

Some protestors went to Marks & Spencer at Donegall Place and tried to take Israeli-sourced goods from the shelves before they were escorted out by police.

On Monday, five anti-war protestors arrested during a protest at the Londonderry offices of the US defence firm Raytheon were charged with offences including criminal damage and assaulting police.

Meanwhile, peace and reconciliation centre Kilcranny House in Coleraine said it was working with both Israeli and Palestinian colleagues to support them during the conflict.

A spokesman said: “We send our support and solidarity to our colleagues working for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine and to the many thousands of victims of violence and those families bereaved in this tragedy.”