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Tensions rise in Paris as Palestinian march aims to defy city's protest ban

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)Rafael Yaghobzadeh/Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris, where riot police got ready as organizers said they would defy a ban on the protest.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement ordered shops closed around the starting point of the planned march in a working-class neighborhood in northern Paris after an administrative court confirmed the ban. Authorities noted a banned July 2014 pro-Palestinian protest against an Israeli offensive in Gaza that degenerated into violence and running battles with police to justify the order against Saturday’s march.

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Organizers said they intend to “denounce the latest Israeli aggressions” and mark the fleeing of Palestinians after Israel declared independence in 1948.

“Stop Annexation. Palestine Will Vanquish,” read one poster in a small crowd facing off with police, who blocked off the neighborhood. Police said water cannons would be used against those who defy the Paris ban.

Protests were permitted in numerous other cities, including Lille in the north to Marseille on the Mediterranean Sea.

Escalating deadly rocket attacks between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza have French authorities on edge, fearing the conflict could also play out in France in the form of violent protests.