Protesters gather across New Zealand amid escalating violence between Israel and Palestine

Nationwide rallies and marches took place across New Zealand on Saturday as the latest eruption of long-running tensions between Israel and the Palestinians continues to escalate.

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Hamilton, Whanganui, Nelson and Wellington to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Thousands gathered around Auckland's Britomart, holding signs, flags, and chanting "free Palestine".

The Israel army has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Gaza, while Palestinians have launched more than 2000 missiles and rockets.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has expressed "grave concern" over the escalating violence.

"The growing death toll and the large numbers of casualties, including children, from Israeli airstrikes and Gazan rockets is unacceptable," she said in a statement on Thursday.

But the Palestine Solidarity Network says she's just tiptoeing around the issue.

"We will be demanding the Government to speak out and condemn Israel's racist, apartheid policies towards Palestinians and its rampant brutality against any Palestinian resistance," they wrote in a statement.

"So far, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has refused to apportion blame - preferring to tiptoe meekly around the issue.

"She is effectively excusing the racist policies and brutality of the highly militarised state of Israel which has the second-largest army in the world per capita, against a largely defenceless indigenous population who all live under Israeli occupation and/or control."

"This is a matter of taking sides with international law."
"This is a matter of taking sides with international law." Photo credit: Supplied

The Zionist Federation of New Zealand, on the other hand, is calling on the Government to "strongly condemn these unprovoked and indiscriminate attacks".

"The Zionist Federation of New Zealand strongly condemns the indiscriminate attacks on Israel from the firing of over 2000 missiles and rockets at Israeli civilians by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad," it says in a statement.

"Whilst we pray for the cessation of the attacks and for peace, we also support Israel's right to defend itself and keep its population safe.

"Peace will only be achieved when the Palestinian leadership is willing to accept Israel's right to exist and agrees to negotiations with Israel to bring a permanent end to the conflict."

Julie Webb-Pullman, a consultant investigator for the Gaza Centre for Human Rights, says she hopes the rallies will put pressure on our Government to "take the sort of principled stand we are renowned for", she told Newshub on Saturday.

"This is a matter of taking sides with international law, not with their military supplier, Israel.

"The Government must reset its moral compass and comply with its own regulations, as well as demanding that Israel comply with international law and UN resolutions."