HUNDREDS of protesters calling for an end to Israeli military action in Gaza gathered Bolton’s Victoria Square.

Protesters briefly clashed with a small group opposing the protest before the scuffle was broken up by police.

There were chants of “Free Palestine” and speeches from members of Bolton’s Muslim community on Saturday at the charity canopy.

Neil McAlister, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said: “Israel seems to be able to act with impunity.

“It seems to be the only state in the world that doesn’t have to abide by international law.

“The response to Hamas’s so-called rockets — which are more like fireworks — is to target anything. To respond to that by slaughtering 2,000 people, 400 of which are children, is completely disproportionate to the threat of Hamas.”

The loud chanting provoked a hostile reaction from some onlookers — who started shouting back at the group.

One man who broke into the protest circle was taken away by officers during the protest on Saturday.

Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, who has been a vocal opponent to the military action in Parliament, joined the protesters.

She said: “For more than four weeks now we have seen a massive onslaught on the people of Gaza.

“They have been subjected to eight years of collective punishment. The water is poisoned, they are relying on food packages and cannot build their homes.

“I went to Gaza four years ago and there were 25 people living in one house. These living conditions cannot go on. It is inhumane.”

Two riot vans and police squads arrived before the Bolton protest started at 3pm on Saturday.

A police spokesman for said there had not been any arrests.

Little Lever UKIP councillor Paul Richardson was in Bolton to observe the protest.

Cllr Richardson said: “It’s like any other protest. There are people for and people against.

“It’s all peaceful and they are perfectly within their rights to do it.”

The Israelis launched a military operation on July 8 to stop militant attacks from Gaza.

Last week saw the extension of a five-day ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.