STROUD Peace Movement and members of Amnesty’s mid-Gloucestershire branch held a vigil in Stroud High Street on Saturday to highlight the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The event, which brought together people from different faiths and political backgrounds, saw demonstrators calling for an end to Israel’s blockade of the troubled coastal strip and for an immediate end to violence on both sides.

Since early July more than 2,090 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed in the conflict, including at least 500 children.

On the Israeli side, there have been 68 casualties – most of whom were soldiers.

Israel launched its military operation with the stated aim of destroying tunnels and ending rocket attacks into its territory from the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

But the country has faced international condemnation for its heavy handed tactics, with many decrying the Israeli action as disproportionate and accusing the country of war crimes.

In an echo of comments made by the British Prime Minister David Cameron, who in 2010 described Gaza as an ‘open-air prison’, supporters of the Stroud vigil sat in cages to illustrate how Gazan families are hemmed in by the Israeli blockade.

Martin Whiteside, a spokesman for Stroud Peace Movement, said: “The blockade increases the frustration among ordinary Palestinian civilians, prevents lawful trade, undermines their rights to economic development and makes it impossible for civilians to flee from the conflict.”

The weekend vigil was the fifth held in Stroud since the conflict re-started and in that time nearly £500 has been raised for the British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Appealing for peace, the protesters were led in song by members of Stroud's 'Songs of Protest' choir.

Carole and Brian Oothuysen, who helped organise the vigil, said: “We stand in solidarity with Gazans who are suffering appallingly. We feel both sides should desist from violence but that Israeli attacks are disproportionate.”