VIOLENT scuffles have broken out between police and Lebanese protesters who mobbed Prime Minister John Howard’s car as he left the WA Liberal Party conference in Perth.
Mr Howard was leaving the WA Liberal Party state conference when about 200 protesters, many of whom were waving Lebanese flags and shouting “we want peace”, mobbed his vehicle.
Protesters punched, kicked and threw projectiles at Mr Howard’s car as police struggled to keep them at bay.
Mr Howard’s entourage sped from the scene as police wrestled protesters to the ground.
The Prime Minister said this week he understood Israel’s decision to carry out its devastating military offensive against Lebanon to put an end to attacks by Hizbollah guerrillas who have fired rockets deep into Israeli territory.
At least one protester was arrested and taken away by police.
Protesters later continued their rally along one of Perth’s main streets calling for peace in the middle east.
Protest leader Muhammad El Khatib said he has family in Lebanon and the Australian government is not doing enough to broker peace in the region.
“There are mothers watching their children die,” Mr El Khatib said.
“There should be aid, they say there is aid getting through to Lebanon, there isn’t,” he said.
“There are people hiding from bombs, we just want peace.”
“Hizbollah is protecting Lebanon, they are freedom fighters, not terrorists,” he said.
People in cars with Lebanese and Palestinian flags attached circled the protesters and police, honking their horns in support.
Earlier a separate peaceful anti-war rally in the city attracted bout 500 people.
When 24-year-old Diana Aoun fled the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the 80s, she hoped her immediate family had finally escaped the violence.
They had. But at a 500-strong rally in Perth to condemn Israel’s recent action, Ms Aoun also told of how she left her extended family in southern Lebanon.
Now, some of their friends are dead – killed by Israeli bombs.
Apart from her parents, brother and an uncle here in Perth, the rest of Ms Aoun’s family are refugees, fighting for their lives.
“I had family living in small villages in southern Lebanon,” Ms Aoun said at the protest, outside Wesley Church in Hay St.
“They’ve both been bombed. We know of people who have been killed, bombed in their own buildings.
“Our own family has had to leave their villages and have become refugees in their own country.
“Children are being burned with phospherous bombs – hundreds of children burned, elderly being killed.
While the rally was peaceful, Ms Aoun and other Lebanese-Australian protestors were clearly distressed.
“Other Australians, I urge you to seek the truth,” Ms Aoun said.
“I urge you to see with your eyes, open your heart, see the inhumanity that is happening.
“Why doesn’t the international community stand up against this murder? How can John Howard stand up and justify this?”
Just Peace organiser Chris Latham said there were concerns about Israel’s escalation of the conflict.
“If this spirals out of control and other states join the conflict, that is a real danger,” he said.