Pro-Palestine protestors hurl flares at Sydney Opera House, call for Australia to drop support for Israel

Protestors at a pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney have thrown flares at the city's iconic Opera House in a call for the country to drop its support for Israel.

Hundreds of Australians have marched in solidarity with Palestinians in the wake of Israel formally declaring war against Hamas after the Palestinian militant group, which rules the Gaza Strip, launched a large-scale attack on the Middle Eastern country.

The assault was a major escalation in the long-running conflict between Palestinians and Israelis which began when a homeland for Jewish people was sought to be established in Palestine. Following World War II and the Holocaust, a Jewish state called Israel was created in 1948.

Following October 7's attack, Hamas fighters have killed more than 900 Israelis at the time of publication and taken civilians hostage. Meanwhile, Israel has launched a counterattack, bombing the Gaza Strip and killing at least 680 people. The death tolls on both sides are expected to rise.

Leaders around the world have condemned Hamas' attack on Israel, including Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who called the assault "abhorrent" and "indiscriminate". He added that Israel has a right to defend itself.

On Monday, the Sydney Opera House was lit up in blue and white in support of Israel. In response, a rally organised by the Palestine Action Group Sydney marched to the landmark to stand with Palestine.

As many as 1000 people took part in the rally, with members chanting "Palestine will never die" and "shame Australia", reported.

Crowd gathers to protest Opera House lighting up in Israeli colours.
Crowd gathers to protest Opera House lighting up in Israeli colours. Photo credit: ABC News

At the steps of the Opera House candles were laid to spell "free Palestine" while others let off flares. According to local news outlets, an Israeli flag was set on fire.

Albanese told Sydney 2GB radio that the rally should have been called off out of respect for the loss of life.

"There's no doubt there has been and continues to be Palestinian suffering but the actions of Hamas in this are completely indefensible," Albanese said.

"Every effort should always be made to protect and not to harm civilians."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has also condemned Hamas' assault on Israel.

"I have had a conversation this morning with my Australian counterpart, Prime Minister Albanese, to compare notes. The New Zealand position and the Australian position are very aligned. We have agreed to keep in touch and make sure that we are aligning our efforts," he told reporters on Monday.

"I have also spoken to the Minister of Foreign Affairs [Nanaia Mahuta] and asked her to make sure New Zealand is poised and ready to contribute to any international humanitarian response to the situation."

The current Government advice for New Zealanders is to not travel to Gaza and only undertake essential travel to Israel.

Hipkins said consular support was available for the small number of New Zealanders in the region, though there is no suggestion any Kiwis have been caught up in the conflict.