‘Cease fire now’: Thousands rally in support of Gaza in at least two dozen Canadian cities
Posted November 4, 2023 9:28 am.
Last Updated November 4, 2023 6:47 pm.
Protesters voicing support for residents of the Gaza Strip gathered at rallies in more than two dozen cities across Canada on Saturday, calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict after war broke out last month.
The rallies come as the United States and Arab partners disagreed over the need for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as the Israeli military continued its strikes in its offensive to crush the enclaves’ Hamas rulers.
The protests in Canada, which took place in cities including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Fredericton, were launched after a call by the Palestinian Youth Movement for a national day of demonstrations.
The group is calling for a ceasefire in the region and the end of restrictions on humanitarian aid allowed into the territory. It’s also demanding Canada end its support for Israel’s military action against Hamas, which the federal government has designated as a terrorist organization since 2002.
In Toronto, tens of thousands of Palestinian supporters lined University Avenue outside the U.S. consulate, carrying flags and signs with a clear message that a ceasefire is needed now.
“This is not a hateful cause. We’re not here to hate on people, we’re out here to protect people.”
Protester Bandar Darwazeh, who is Palestinian and lives in Canada, says he feels the pain of his relatives who live in the West Bank, where violence has also been on the rise amid the past month’s bloodshed in and around Gaza.
Darwazeh says the Canadian and American governments should be doing more.
“We are here to push the Canadian government to request a ceasefire and bring peace,” he said.
Jane Story, another protester at the Toronto rally, says she is “particularly traumatized and heartbroken by what’s happening in Gaza.”
“I’ve been involved marching for Palestinians for 40 years,” said Story, who was waving a Palestinian flag at the protest. “It’s an ongoing conflict that’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and the scenes out of Gaza are beyond belief.”
“One child is dying every six minutes. We’re here to say when is enough; when is the clock going to stop; when is the Israeli government going to conduct a ceasefire,” said Gur Tsabar of the organization Independent Jewish Voices, a group representing Canadian Jews with a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights.
Those at Saturday’s demonstration are critical of the Canadian government and what they’re calling a lack of response and refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. The fear is as the violence intensifies more lives will be lost.
“[The Prime Minister] needs to find his humanity. Where is it? This is not Canada. What’s happening is not just happening in Jews’s names but in the Canadian government’s name,” said Tsabar.
In Montreal, thousands of demonstrators marched through the Quartier des Spectacles neighbourhood downtown, many carrying Palestinian flags and taking part in chants calling for a free Palestine” and ceasefire now.”
Montreal protester Shaima Nakhli said what she described as Canadian officials’ reluctance to condemn the killing of Palestinians made her doubt the government’s commitment to human rights.
Canada is always there for human rights, for humanism,” Nakhli said. “Where are those values?”
Palestinian Youth Movement organizer Sarah Shamy told the Montreal rally that she expected a historic turnout in demonstrations organized across North America on Saturday.
A few hundred people carrying the green, red and black Palestinian flags and shouting slogans gathered outside Fredericton’s historic City Hall building.
Demonstrators said they were there to protest what they called a 75-year-old occupation by Israeli forces, a characterization Israel has consistently rejected. Slogans on display included bombing kids is not self-defence,” free Gaza” and “cease fire now,” among others.
Amer Marwan El-Samman, a spokesman for the Fredericton rally, said the main message of the protest was to call for a ceasefire and stop what he called the “indiscriminate killing” of civilians.
El-Samman said he is hopeful about the future despite the long and complex history of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which has been ongoing since at least Israel’s establishment in 1948.
It might be next year, it might be two years. You never know how things can change,” El-Samman said. “The next generation, the youth shows me a little bit more promise …So we’ll see.”
The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza reports more than 9,440 Palestinians have died in the war with Israel, which was triggered by the group’s incursion into that country on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,400 people and saw more than 200 taken back into Gaza as hostages.
Israel immediately declared war in response and has launched daily attacks since then, stepping up bombardments over the past week and triggering growing global alarm about the lack of food, fuel and basic supplies for Gaza’s roughly 2.3 million residents.
The Israeli military said Saturday it had encircled Gaza City and Hamas was “encountering the full force” of Israel’s troops as large columns of smoke rose from the city.
Hamas’s military wing said its fighters had destroyed 24 Israeli vehicles and inflicted casualties in the past two days.
At least 1,115 Palestinian dual nationals and wounded have exited Gaza into Egypt, but on Saturday authorities in Gaza didn’t allow foreign passport holders to leave because Israel was preventing the evacuation of Palestinian patients for treatment in Egypt, said Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority.
Global Affairs Canada had previously informed Canadians trapped in the Gaza Strip that they could be allowed out “as early as Sunday,” but an update provided Saturday made no mention of Saturday’s pause in border crossings and offered no more details on a potential timeline.
A summary of a conversation between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had offered assurances that “Canadians in Gaza will be able to leave in the coming days.”
The readout also indicated Trudeau expressed concern about the humanitarian situation Gaza and stressed the need for aid to be allowed to flow into the territory, but also acknowledged a “disturbing rise of antisemitism around the world,” including in Canada.
THOUSANDS ATTEND PROTEST MARCHES IN EUROPE
Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators took to the streets in Paris, Berlin and other European cities on Saturday.
At a Paris rally that drew several thousand protesters, demonstrators called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and some shouted Israel, assassin!” In central London, streets were blocked by protesters chanting, Cease-fire now” and “I believe that we will win.”
Banners on a sound-system truck at the Paris march through rain-dampened streets read: Stop the massacre in Gaza.” Demonstrators, many carrying Palestinian flags, chanted Palestine will live, Palestine will win.”
Some demonstrators also took aim at French President Emmanuel Macron, chanting “Macron, accomplice.”
Paris’ police chief authorized the march from Republique to Nation, two large plazas in eastern Paris, but vowed that any behavior deemed antisemitic or sympathetic to terrorism would not be tolerated.
Multiple countries in Europe have reported increasing antisemitic attacks and incidents since Oct. 7. In a new attack Saturday, an assailant knocked on the door of a Jewish woman in the French city of Lyon and, when she opened, said “Hello” before stabbing her twice in the stomach, according to the woman’s lawyer, Stephane Drai, who spoke to broadcaster BFM. He said police also found a swastika on the woman’s door. The woman was being treated in a hospital and her life was not in danger, the lawyer said.
In Berlin, around 1,000 police officers were deployed to ensure order after previous pro-Palestinian protests turned violent. German news agency dpa reported that about 6,000 protesters marched through the center of the German capital. Police banned any kind of public or written statements that are antisemitic, anti-Israeli or glorify violence or terror. Several thousand protesters also marched through the west German city of Duesseldorf.
At the London rally, with hundreds of protesters, the Metropolitan Police said its officers made 11 arrests, including one on a terrorism charge for displaying a placard that could incite hatred. The police force had forewarned that it would also monitor social media and use facial recognition to spot criminal behavior.
In Romania’s capital, hundreds gathered in central Bucharest, many waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Save the children from Gaza.”
At a rally by several thousand people in Milan, Matteo Salvini, a deputy prime minister, spoke out against antisemitism, calling it “a cancer, a virulent plague, something disgusting,”
In another part of Milan, a pro-Palestinian rally drew about 4,000 people and there was also a march by several thousand in Rome. Yara Abushab, a 22-year-old medical student from Gaza University, who has been in Italy since Oct. 1, was among the participants and described Oct. 7 as a watershed for her.
They bombed my university, my hospital. I lost a lot of loved ones and right now the last time I heard something from my family was a week ago,” she said. The situation is indescribable.”
-With files from Melissa Nakhavoly and The Associated Press