Loading articles...

Thousands gather in Toronto to protest Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Last Updated May 15, 2021 at 11:10 pm EDT

Thousands gather at Nathan Philips Square for a protest against Israel and in support of Palestinians on Saturday, May 15, 2021. CITYNEWS/Rick Helinski

Thousands of people gathered for a vocal but relatively peaceful protest at Nathan Philips Square in response to the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

A heavy police presence was on hand for what they estimated to be a gathering of between 2,500 to 5,000 people.

There appeared to be a smaller group of counter-protesters at the same event, showing support for Israel. However, they dispersed as the crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators closed in around them, separated only by police.

There is no word if any arrests were made in relation to the event, but police say attendees and organizers will be subjected to charges for violating stay-at-home orders that prevent large outdoor gatherings. They add that even if charges aren’t issued at the scene, they can be laid at a later date.

The protest was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, which called for similar demonstrations in over 25 North American cities this weekend including Los Angeles, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Thousands of people shut down traffic on a major thoroughfare in west Los Angeles as they marched two miles from outside the federal building to the Israeli consulate. The protesters waved signs that said “free Palestine” and shouted “long live intifada,” or uprising.

In San Francisco, a raucous crowd banged drums and yelled “Palestine will be free” as they marched across the Mission district to Dolores Park.

The marches coincided with Nakba Day, which commemorate the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s declaration of independence.

The protests were stoked by five days of mayhem that left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza and eight dead on the Israeli side. The violence, set off by Hamas firing a rocket into Israel on Monday, came after weeks of mounting tensions and heavy-handed Israeli measures in contested Jerusalem.

Israel stepped up its assault and slammed the Gaza Strip with airstrikes Saturday, in a dramatic escalation that included bombing the home of a senior Hamas leader, killing a family of 10 in a refugee camp and destroying a building that house the offices of The Associated Press and other media.

Israeli warplanes then struck several buildings and roads in a vital part of Gaza City early Sunday, leaving at least two dead and wounding as many as 25 others – including women and children.

According to photos circulated by residents and journalists, the airstrikes created a crater that blocked one of the main roads leading to Shifa, the largest hospital in the strip.

Two hours into the heavy bombardment, there was no comment from the Israeli military.