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UK police chief defends force’s decision not to arrest chanters of ‘jihad’ at anti-Israel protest

The head of Britain’s biggest police department responded Monday to criticism of his force's decision not to make arrests following chants of "jihad" at an anti-Israel protest in London over the weekend. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley defended the police, arguing they cannot enforce "taste and decency" and suggested that if politicians want tougher action to be taken, they should consider changing the laws, the Guardian website reported.

The issue came to the forefront after a rally organized Saturday by the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir group, during which participants chanted "jihad."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman met with Rowley on Monday to seek clarification on why no arrests were made in connection with the incident.

"I was explaining how we are absolutely ruthless in tackling anybody who puts their foot over the legal line. We are accountable to the law – we can’t enforce taste or decency – but we can enforce the law. We’ve made 34 arrests so far…We have another 22 cases…where we are searching for individuals," said Rowley.

"The conversation finished around the line of the law. It’s our job to enforce to that line. It’s parliament’s job to draw that line. Maybe events of the moment are illustrating that some of the lines aren’t quite in the right place," he added.

On Oct, 10, just days after the current Middle East conflict began, Braverman issued a warning to police chiefs over displays of Palestinian flags on British streets.

She suggested that waving the flag "may not be legitimate" if it is seen as a show of support for terrorism.

She provided examples of protest actions which she believed could potentially constitute public order offenses, including targeting Jewish neighborhoods, waving pro-Palestinian or pro-Hamas symbols, and chanting slogans that could be interpreted as anti-Israeli.

The conflict in Gaza, which has been under Israeli bombardment and a blockade since Oct. 7, began when the Palestinian group Hamas initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a multi-pronged surprise attack that included a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel by land, sea and air. 

It said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and growing violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.

The Israeli military then launched Operation Swords of Iron against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian death toll from ongoing Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip has climbed to 5,087, the Health Ministry in the blockaded enclave said on Monday.

“The fatalities include 2,055 children, 1,119 women and 217 elders,” ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told a news conference in Gaza City.

He said 15,273 people were also injured in the Israeli attacks.

More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed in Hamas attacks since Oct. 7, according to Israeli authorities.

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