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Protesters form red line around White House, calling for end to war in Gaza

 Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate in front of the White House in Washington, June 8, 2024. [AP Photo]

Protesters formed a symbolic red line around the White House on Saturday, calling for an end to the eight-month Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and urging American leaders to press Israel not to invade Rafah, where airstrikes were reported Saturday.

As the conflict enters its ninth month, the demonstrators chanted "From D.C. to Palestine, we are the red line" while holding a long banner listing the names of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

President Joe Biden has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to launch a major military operation, calling it a red line, but Israel Defense Forces have been carrying out military operations in and near Rafah since early May.

In late May, an Israeli airstrike on a camp in southern Gaza killed at least 45 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. When asked if this breached the president's red line, John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser, said the administration does not believe Israel's actions in Rafah constitute a "major ground operation."

That view was rejected by the protesters in Washington on Saturday.

 Pro-Palestinian protesters carry a red banner representing a "red line" in front of the White House in Washington, June 8, 2024. [AP Photo]

"I no longer believe any of the words that Joe Biden says," said 25-year-old protester Zaid Mahdawi from Virginia, whose parents are Palestinian.

"This 'red line' in his rhetoric is rubbish... it shows his hypocrisy and his cowardice," Mahdawi told Agence France-Presse.

The protest was organized by several groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CODEPINK, and others.

CODEPINK, a left-wing anti-war organization, is supported by many at the protest for its stance on Palestinian statehood but criticized by others for opposing U.S. support for Ukraine during Russia's invasion. Some protesters said they were not affiliated with any movement.

Organized buses brought people to the capital from at least 13 states. There was no official count of protesters, but the crowd formed a symbolic red line around the White House.

Biden was not at the White House to see the protest, as he is in France until Sunday.

The White House is waiting for Hamas' official response to the latest hostage deal and cease-fire proposal. Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed Gaza in their bilateral meeting Saturday.

VOA asked the White House for a reaction to the protest and the protesters' demands and received the U.S. Secret Service's statement: "In preparation for the events this weekend in Washington, D.C., which have the potential to attract large crowds, additional public safety measures have been put in place near the White House complex."

A LGBTQ+ pride parade was among the events in the U.S. capital Saturday.

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