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Several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered on Tuesday, demanding restrictions on Israel's involvement in the Paris 2024 Summer Games in the French capital, insisting they should be treated like Russia and compete under a neutral flag.

As a form of repercussion for Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which received assistance from Belarus, Russian and Belarusian athletes are prohibited by the International Olympic Committee from competing under their national flags at the 2024 Summer Olympics. Additionally, officials from both countries have been banned from participating at Paris 2024.

Around 300 people participated in the rally at the headquarters of the Paris Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans against Israel's "institutional participation" in the Games due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Referencing the case of Russian athletes who will participate under a neutral flag, protesters argued that the IOC should enforce a similar protocol for Israeli participants. “They didn’t need more than four days to decide to ban Russia and Belorussia from the Olympics after the invasion of Ukraine,” Nicolas Shahshahani, a member of the EuroPalestine activist group, told The Independent. “They are prepared to welcome the Israeli delegation.”

Pro-Palestine protestors want Isreal to participate in the Paris Olympics as neutrals. GETTY IMAGES
Pro-Palestine protestors want Isreal to participate in the Paris Olympics as neutrals. GETTY IMAGES

In an interview earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron supported the IOC's choice to permit Russian athletes to compete in the Olympics, notwithstanding the invasion of Ukraine, albeit under a neutral flag. He supported Israeli athletes' participation under their national flag despite their military actions in Gaza since 7 October, when Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israel, resulting in approximately 1,200 deaths, mostly civilians, and the abduction of around 250 hostages.

According to Gaza health officials, over 34,000 Palestinians have died in the ensuing conflict between Israel and Hamas. “We cannot say that Israel is attacking,” Macron said. “Israel was a victim of a terrorist attack to which it is now responding to in Gaza.” 

Tuesday's demonstrations followed recent actions by pro-Palestinian students, who, inspired by solidarity encampments in the United States supporting Gaza, organised protests and attempted to occupy buildings at France's two prestigious universities in the Paris region. French police evicted 50 students from the Sorbonne University's main courtyard on Monday, following the occupation by pro-Palestinian protesters.

Demonstrations also erupted at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, or Sciences Po, last week, as pro-Palestinian students sought to occupy an amphitheater. Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters confronted each other in a tense standoff on the street outside the school on Friday. 

Riot police intervened to separate the opposing factions. The demonstration concluded peacefully after students reached a resolution with the administration and vacated the premises late on the said day.