A GROUP of placard-waving peace protesters held a quiet vigil as one of the bloodiest Middle East conflicts makes its presence felt in a West Devon town.

Tavistock’s Bedford Square was the centre for a public vigil last Friday calling for what has become a politically sensitive demand — a ceasefire in Gaza. However, there are signs a truce agreement might be imminent. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed as Israel enacts what it says is its right to defend its sovereignty and security by bombing and invading the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. The military action has so far, lasted about two months since the Hamas group, designated terrorists by the UK and other countries, entered Israel and killed 1,200 and kidnapped 240 people in unexpected violence. 

Israel has generated criticism for what many governments, campaigners and aid groups have said is a disproportionate response in killing what Hamas claims is about 12,000 people. 

Val Sharpe, a TPAG member, said: “I’m here on the vigil because we’re in the middle of a war between Gaza and Israel. We want to be seen to stand up for the idea of peace. This can only be achieved by a ceasefire by both sides.  

“We demand that hostilities stop which will allow immediate humanitarian aid to be delivered to those who need it so badly.

“Stopping the bombing and killing will also not only give time for a peaceful end to the current conflict, but also a solution to the long term dispute over territory between Israel and the Palestinians. Negotiations cannot take place as kiling continues. 

“The talking needs to begin.There is no solution in continued military action and fighting and killing. A ceasefire is the only way.”

Ginny Davies is a long standing member of TPAG which was formed as an anti-nuclear war campaign body, said: “I am appalled by the large-scale slaughter in Gaza which we see with the bombing of Gaza and Gaza City. 

“The taking of hostages was very cruel by Hamas, but by killing thousands of Palestinian civilians by Israel is not the right way to deal with that and the bigger issue of the longer term dispute in the Middle East..

“We are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. We are stating a lot of people’s concerns about the loss of life. 

“We know that our vigil will not change Israel’s actions, but we are showing solidarity  with the ordinary Palestinian people and with other peace groups. In this mass peace action we hope that our politicians will take notice and show them that we are not a lone voice.”

Pete Squire, a long-term peace advocate and Quaker,  said: “We are speaking up as the voice of peace which seems to be largely drowned out. But we can’t just stand by and say nothing when the alternative is unchecked violence which has been proved over the decades not to work.”

TPAG has also campaigned recently for peace during the Russia/Ukraine war. It marked the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and has roots in anti-nuclear arms views. 

“The group hosts plays and talks with peace themes with one event last April about eyewitness stories from Israel and the West Bank. 

The group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Tavistock United Reformed Church. The next meeting is on December 5 at Tavistock United at 7.30pm. Details: [email protected] or 07769 868480 

As the Times went to press, negotiations were continuing between Isreal and the Palestinian authorities over a ceasefire and an exchange of hostages.Tavistock Peace Action Group (TPAG) held its first vigil in Bedford Square as darkness fell last Friday (November 17) evening and shoppers were still milling around.

 The campaigners, a mixture of ages and backgrounds, are promising a series of Friday vigils from 4pm and 5pm, calling for a ceasefire, until this is met. There will not, however, be a vigil on December 1 — Tavistock’s famous Dickensian evening.