Children lay teddy bears outside UK Foreign Office in Gaza protest

Teddy bear 'blockade' by protesters demanding a ceasefire and withdrawal of support to Israel

Parents and children lay cuddly toys at the entrance to the Foreign Office in London in protest at the loss of children's lives in Gaza. PA Wire
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Teddy bears were laid by children outside the gates of the UK’s Foreign Office to highlight the suffering of youngsters in Gaza and to call for the government to back a ceasefire.

At the protest in central London were many mothers and children carrying toys to place on a mat with candles at the gated entrance to the Foreign Office, which had Palestinian flags tied to it.

The protest came as 220 empty seats were set at a "Shabbat table" in the north of the city to remember the hostages being held captive by Hamas after its attack on Israel, in which1,400 people were killed.

According to figures released by the health ministry in Gaza, 2,913 children are among the 7,028 people who have been killed between October 7 and October 26.

A 212-page document includes their names, ages and identification numbers while a further a 281 Palestinians, including 248 children, are described as unidentified.

At the demonstration at the Foreign Office, protesters accused the government of being complicit in the deaths of children killed in Israeli air strikes.

They chanted "shame on you" at the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, while also demanding an immediate ceasefire and for the government to stop providing arms to Israel.

One of those who took part, Meg Kumar, 39, told The National she thought that what is happening in Gaza is a “war crime”.

“What Hamas did was barbaric, but the children of Palestine don’t deserve this collective onslaught,” Ms Kumar said.

As she held her son Milan, who had a stuffed toy tucked underneath him, she said it was “extremely important” as a mother to highlight the suffering caused to children by the war and singled out the UK’s Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition Labour Party for criticism.

“I think children are seen as collateral damage and Rishi Sunak does not care and even Keir Starmer has been very disappointing,” she said.

“As a mother I can hold my child and I’m not having to worry about bombs, but what people are facing in Palestine, I can’t even begin to imagine what you must feel like as a parent.

“As a parent being unable to protect your child but then to watch your children slowly die because they can’t get medical aid, can’t get water and they don’t have food, is heartbreaking.

Ms Kumar said placing a teddy was a gesture that “no child should have to suffer”.

“As a mother you can’t watch brutality to any child, which is why I want to reiterate that what Hamas did was unconscionable, but it’s the same now for Palestinians.”

Annie Dowd, 40, a mother of three who helped arrange the protest, said: “We're a group of parents absolutely horrified by what we're seeing every day.

"We came together literally 48 hours ago and asked other parents to join us and for their children to bring teddy bears to commemorate those who are dying in Gaza with the complicity of our own government.

"We've been absolutely overwhelmed with one and a half thousand parents getting in touch.

"As a mum, I can't stomach recent events – I can't see another Palestinian baby pulled out of the rubble."

Updated: October 27, 2023, 1:15 PM