Thousands demonstrate in Canada for cease-fire in Gaza

Thousands demonstrate in Canada for cease-fire in Gaza

OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) : Thousands of protesters on Saturday carried placards, waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans before Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa, demanding a permanent cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

The diverse group included Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, anti-war, labor and social justice organizations.

The rally followed an online petition presented to lawmakers on Friday with 286,719 signatures — said to be the most of any parliamentary e-petition — urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to press for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

“A pause is not enough,” said Yara Shoufani, a protest organizer, adding that “thousands of Palestinians have been killed and Gaza’s infrastructure has been destroyed.”

Protester Omar Yousif, 38, said he was taking part to “awaken the world” to the plight of civilians in Gaza.

The current pause in fighting, he told AFP, “is definitely not enough. I think that this has to stay permanent.”

The demonstration in the Canadian capital was peaceful, but earlier this month Trudeau had to be escorted to safety as police broke up a pro-Palestinian protest outside the Vancouver restaurant where he was dining.

The prime minister had said earlier that day that the killing “of women, of children, of babies” in the Israel-Hamas war must stop, drawing a strong rebuke from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

In Gaza, a temporary truce was largely being respected Saturday as Israel released Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli and foreign hostages held by Hamas.

Hamas fighters snatched around 240 captives when they broke through Gaza’s militarized border with Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, according to Israeli authorities.

In response to the deadliest attack in its history, Israel launched an air, artillery and naval bombardment alongside a ground offensive aimed at destroying Hamas, killing nearly 15,000 people, according to the Hamas government in Gaza.