Thousands came together in Bolton town centre during a peaceful protest for Palestine.

Families and friends marched from Queens Park to Victoria Square, waving placards and flags, where they chanted ‘free Palestine’.

It comes as the violence has continued to escalate today after Israel expanded its ground operation in Gaza, sending in tanks and infantry backed by massive strikes from the air and sea.

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza on Saturday rose to just over 7,700 people since October 7, with 377 deaths reported since late Friday, according to the territory’s health ministry.

One protester said: "If we stand by and do nothing whilst this is going on, I feel like we are almost complicit in what's going on in that genocide.

The Bolton News: Pictures by Phil Taylor"We are here to show our solidarity for the people of Palestine and to also call for a ceasefire, and that must happen immediately."

After marching down Spa Road to the town hall, prayers were read out, along with songs and powerful speeches, calling for a ceasefire, before setting off flares.

One of the organisers of the protest from Friends of Al-Aqsa Peace in Palestine, Usman Patel said: "It's important because of the massacre that's happening in Gaza, day in and day out.

"We are watching genocide on our televisions, and we feel for the Palestinian people.

"We know the Government is not going to change their stance, but we are here to stand in solidarity for the Palestinian people."

The Bolton News: One of the organisers of the protest from Friends of Al-Aqsa Peace in Palestine, Usman Patel One of the organisers of the protest from Friends of Al-Aqsa Peace in Palestine, Usman Patel (Image: Newsquest)One attendee said that it was not about taking people’s sides, but rather about the devastating humanitarian crisis currently unfolding.

She said: “We are asking for peaceful solutions.

"It's not about being Jewish, Christian, or Muslim.

"It's about humanity and what is right."

Retired veteran trade unionist Florence Hill called for a ceasefire and expressed her support for Palestine.

She said: “I am pleased to say that Unison nationally has now come out – one of the first unions to do it – and called for a ceasefire.

The Bolton News: Florence HillFlorence Hill (Image: Newsquest)“Branches across the UK, and Scotland, Ireland, and Wales are now sending large donations for medical aid for Palestinians who are suffering.”

Ammara Zarin came to the protest with her family and hopes that the protest will help make a difference, and is saddened by the innocent lives affected on both sides.

She said: "We are here for the protest for Palestine because in Islam we believe that we should look out for our brothers and sisters.

"We want to make a difference and stand in solidarity.

"Innocent people are being hurt on both sides and it needs to stop."

The Bolton News: Ammara Zarin in the middle with her familyAmmara Zarin in the middle with her family (Image: Newsquest)

Deputy Leader of Bolton Council Cllr Akhtar Zaman has also called for a ceasefire.

He said: "The loss of innocent life in Gaza is unprecedented and it cannot go on.

"We need an immediate ceasefire now."

Former Rumworth councillor Ayub Patel also came to show his support.

He said: "I utterly condemn the Hamas attacks and condemn the Israeli government responding with the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

"I believe the urgent priority must be to stop the deaths and suffering of any more civilians including women and children in Gaza and Israel.

@theboltonnews So many prople came oyt to ahow their support in #Bolton for #palestine ♬ original sound - The Bolton News

"Our Government and opposition leaders need to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel and put an end to the humanitarian catastrophe we are witnessing unfolding in the region.

"Without a ceasefire much needed aid will not reach the men women and children and those others that are simply left to die.

"The innocent Palestinians have nothing to do with this crisis and are victims who are being inflicted with the worst humanitarian pain."

Greater Manchester Unison Branch Chair, and Co-organiser of today's Bolton4Palestine Demonstration, Neil McAlister highlighted the pressure of what those in Gaza are currently facing when it comes to resources.

He said: "Health workers in the UK are used to being stretched, working with too few staff and too few resources.

"But it is unfathomable and unconscionable to think of health workers serving a population of 2 million where in three weeks 7,814 are slaughtered, 21,963 are seriously wounded, and you have no access to food, fuel, or clean water.

"UK Health Workers say the bombardment of Gaza and the siege of Gaza must end now."

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