French police used teargas and water cannon to break up a banned rally in support of the Palestinian people in Paris on Thursday, as President Emmanuel Macron urged the French to remain united and refrain from bringing the Israel-Hamas conflict home.

Macron’s interior minister had earlier banned pro-Palestinian protests, saying they were “likely to generate disturbances to public order”.

France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities. The Middle East conflict has often stoked domestic tensions in the past.

“Let’s not pursue at home ideological adventures by imitating or projecting,” Macron said in a solemn TV address.

“Let’s not add, through illusions or calculations, domestic divides to international divides,” he said. “The shield of unity will protect us from hatred and excesses.”

Macron said the government had acted to boost police protection of Jewish sites, including schools and synagogues.

“This event is an earthquake for Israel, the Middle East and beyond,” he said. “Those who confuse the Palestinian cause and the justification of terrorism are making a moral, political and strategic mistake.”

Before he spoke, the far-left France Unbowed party faced criticism for refusing to call the Hamas attack an act of terrorism, causing tension with its Socialist and Green opposition partners.

BANNED RALLY

Despite the ban, several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in central Paris in separate groups that police forces sought to keep from merging.

Demonstrators chanted “Israel murderer” and “Macron accomplice.” Macron has previously condemned the deadly attack by the Palestinian militant Hamas group and voiced solidarity with Israel.

“We live in a country of civil law, a country where we have the right to take a stand and to demonstrate. (It is unfair) to forbid for one side and to authorise for the other,” said Charlotte Vautier, 29, an employee at a non-profit who took part in the rally.

Earlier this week, Hamas called for protests across the Muslim world on Friday to support Palestinians.

Two pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris had already been banned on Thursday for fear of outbursts when interior minister Gerald Darmanin told prefects to ban all pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the country.

Since the Hamas cross-border attack from Gaza on Saturday, French police have arrested more than 20 people in dozens of antisemitic acts, including harassment of Jewish children by fellow pupils at school, the government said on Wednesday.