Port of Vancouver access temporarily blocked by demonstrators calling for Israel arms embargo

Dozens of demonstrators temporarily blocked entrances to the Port of Vancouver in East Vancouver Thursday, calling for an “immediate arms embargo on Israel.”

The intersection of East Hasting Street and Clark Drive was blocked just after 9 a.m., with protestors also present at the Commissioner Street entrance near New Brighton Park.

The Clark and East Hastings demonstration was cleared just before 12:30 p.m.

“Community members participating in this action have a clear demand: Canada must immediately impose a full two-way arms embargo on Israel. This action follows last week’s decision from the International Court of Justice which affirmed that there is a strong case that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. And just this week, Justin Trudeau admitted Canada authorized new permits for military exports to Israel since October 7,” organizer Liz McDowell wrote in a release.

The United Nations’ top court on Jan. 26 ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction, and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering Israel to end the military offensive that has laid waste to the Palestinian enclave. However, it did not explicitly say that Israel is committing genocide.

“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” said court President Joan E. Donoghue.

The genocide allegations amounted to an overwhelming rebuke of Israel’s wartime conduct and added to mounting international pressure to halt the nearly four-month-old offensive, which has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, decimated vast swaths of Gaza, and driven nearly 85 per cent of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

Allowing the accusations to stand stung the government of Israel, which was founded as a Jewish state after the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the fact that the court was willing to discuss the genocide charges was a “mark of shame that will not be erased for generations.” He also vowed to press ahead with the war.

The court also called on Hamas to release the hostages who are still in captivity.

Netanyahu has said that Israel “will continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.” Israel says the offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas after its Oct. 7 attacks on Israel that killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Israel says it has abided by international law and is doing its best to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. It says it has killed more than 9,000 militants and accuses Hamas of embedding in civilian areas, making it difficult to avoid civilian casualties.

Haim Abraham, a lecturer in laws at University College London, noted that the court decision indicated “that there is, on the face of things, a risk that genocide might have been conducted” by Israel.

“Demonstrators are gathering to demand that Canada must abide by international and domestic law and impose an arms embargo. The Government of Canada has a legal responsibility under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to ensure Canadian arms exports are not used in the commission of serious violations of international law up to and including genocide,” McDowell added.

More to come.

With files from the Associated Press

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