A large assembly of demonstrators gathered in Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, on Saturday to express their support for Palestinians as the conflict in Gaza continues to escalate. Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that Israel would not withdraw from Gaza until the elimination of Hamas is achieved, voices of solidarity echoed across the globe on Saturday.
The ongoing conflict has witnessed Israel expanding its ground operation against Hamas militants in Gaza. The military spokesperson confirmed the use of infantry and armored vehicles, complemented by “massive” airstrikes from both air and sea.
Regrettably, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 7,700 people, with 377 deaths reported since late Friday, according to the territory’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. Tragically, more than 1,400 people lost their lives in Israel during Hamas’s October 7 attack, according to the Israeli government, and at least 229 hostages were taken into Gaza.
The demonstration in Toronto temporarily disrupted traffic flow in the city center as the protesters marched, determined to draw attention to the dire situation in Gaza.
Yasser Aboutaha, one of the demonstrators, fervently called for an immediate ceasefire and urged for the delivery of more civilian aid to Gaza. He stated, “We don’t know who is living, who’s dead, who’s injured, who’s under the buildings, you know, severely injured and hoping for someone to get them out.”
Aboutaha went on to share the personal tragedy he has experienced, “I have already lost 56 of my family members … and out of them, 36 were kids under 10 years old.”
In Gaza, where most electricity was cut weeks ago, there was a further blow as 2.3 million residents lost access to phone and internet services on Friday. Mona Ayesh, one of the demonstrators, expressed the deep anguish of not being able to contact her family in Gaza, stating, “We have anxiety.
Our kids are crying, we are crying. We cannot sleep.” The dire situation has left many feeling helpless, with Ayesh adding, “Even when we eat, we drink. We feel guilt because our people, my family, is there and cannot eat.”
At the rally, there was a diverse range of voices, including B. h. Yael, who emphasized her Jewish and Israeli background while disapproving of Israel’s actions. “I’m Jewish, I’m Israeli born, and I cannot support what Israel is doing,” she remarked, highlighting concerns about the violence inflicted on the densely populated Gaza strip.
Corey Balsam, the national co-ordinator of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, also called for an end to the bloodshed and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, emphasizing the urgent need for a peaceful resolution.
While the organization has faced criticism from some Jewish groups, Balsam stressed, “We’re of course gutted by the attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7 and continue to be terrified at the loss of life, the collective punishment, and the just extreme, really inhumane treatment of Gaza right now.”
The Toronto rally serves as a poignant reminder of the global concern for the situation in Gaza and the fervent calls for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.