Thousands of demonstrators have gathered outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Toronto, denouncing a massive explosion at a Gaza City hospital that killed hundreds of people on Tuesday.
With some waving Palestinian flags and others holding up signs calling for a “Free Palestine,” demonstrators began lining up along Yonge Street, just north of Bloor Street, around 7 p.m. They chanted, “The occupation’s got to go” and, “Hands off Gaza.”
The rally later moved to the intersection, blocking traffic and prompting police to close the roads.
One demonstrator said she could not stay home and had to be at the rally after learning about what happened at Al-Ahli hospital.
“We are here to mourn the death of so many, so many civilians, newborn kids, children, youth, people who had lives [and] plans ahead of them, people who are waiting for their graduations, people who are waiting to get married and build up lives. But none of that is possible now,” she said.
“I just wanted people to know that the people of Gaza are suffering, that the people of Gaza are under extreme, extreme, horrid conditions. It’s inhumane. Enough is enough. They have had enough. Too many, too many have died. Too many Palestinians have died. It’s horrible.”
The Israeli military and Hamas traded blame on who was responsible for the deadly hospital explosion that, according to the Gaza health ministry, killed at least 500 people.
Hamas attributed the blast to an Israeli airstrike, but the Israeli military denied its involvement, saying that a misfired rocked by Islamic Jihad, a smaller, more radical Palestinian militant group that often cooperates with Hamas in their shared struggle against Israel, was the cause.
However, the group accused Israel of “trying hard to evade responsibility for the brutal massacre it committed.”
The “Emergency Action for Gaza” rally was put together by the Palestinian Youth Movement, which organized similar demonstrations since the Israel-Hamas war broke out earlier this month. Tuesday’s event was just one of several being held across the country in response to the deadly explosion.
One demonstrator named Tarek said he was at the rally to show solidarity with his relatives back in Gaza suffering from the ongoing violence and to speak out against Israeli actions.
“They’re bombing innocent civilians and innocent residential buildings that have nothing to do with Hamas. They said that their plan is to go into Hamas, right? Why haven’t they done that? … What is their objective? I don’t understand anymore. I have no words to describe what’s happening in this world right now,” Tarek said, adding that he wants the Canadian government and the United Nations to take a stand against Israel for what’s happening and call for an end to violence.
Demonstrators dispered just before 11 p.m. Toronto police told CP24 that one person was arrested at the rally but did not provide further information on the what led to it.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the situation “absolutely unacceptable.” Speaking in French, he told reporters that “it’s not legal” to bomb a hospital.
Earlier on Tuesday, duelling protests in support of both Israelis and Palestinians were held at the University of Toronto St. George campus.
Tensions ran high between the two demonstrations, prompting campus security to form a line between the two groups to separate them.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press
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