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Pro-Palestine supporters gather in Ottawa to call for permanent ceasefire as bombing in Gaza continues

Pro-Palestine supporters rally at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street in Ottawa. Dec. 9, 2023. (Shaun Vardon/CTV News Ottawa) Pro-Palestine supporters rally at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street in Ottawa. Dec. 9, 2023. (Shaun Vardon/CTV News Ottawa)
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As the Israel-Hamas war enters its third month, pro-Palestine groups gathered in Ottawa for the ninth straight weekend to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The march, organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, began at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street Saturday afternoon.

"No speeches, just solidarity," a post advertising the gathering said. "Let's unite and raise our voices." 

The group is calling for a permanent ceasefire in the region, an "end to Canadian support for genocide", and "an end to the siege on Gaza and Israeli occupation."

Demonstrators gathered at the Human Rights Monument before marching down Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa toward the U.S. embassy.

"This is the ninth week that we have been protesting for Gaza and we've been protesting consistently in the thousands and people are here to let the government know that we will not tire until our demands are met," said Palestinian Youth Movement spokesperson Sara Abdul-Karam at the rally.

The message has been the same since Israel launched its counter-offensive following the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. Previous rallies on Parliament Hill this fall drew tens of thousands of supporters, including some politicians, with marches through downtown that filled the streets with Palestinian flags and chants.

"The Zionist regime continues to escalate its genocide against our people. We cannot give up! We must continue to show up for our people in Gaza," the Palestinian Youth Movement said on Instagram.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously rejected calls for Canada to demand a ceasefire.

On Saturday, Israeli warplanes struck targets in the Gaza Strip, including areas Palestinians had been told were safe zones, the Associated Press reported. The bombings came a day after the United States vetoed a UN resolution demanding a humanitarian ceasefire.

The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,400, according to the health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Israel blames Hamas for the civilian casualties, accusing the group, which is considered a terrorist entity by Israel, Canada, the U.S. and other nations, of using civilians as human shields. Israel says 93 soldiers have died since its ground offensive into Gaza began.

Israeli officials have said a ceasefire would only give Hamas time to regroup and prepare a new attack. Fighting was paused in late November to allow for the release of 110 hostages taken from Israel in exchange for Palestinians prisoners. It's believed at least 130 hostages remain held by Hamas.

It was announced Saturday afternoon that a group of foreign ministers from the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and Turkiye quietly arrived in Ottawa to discuss the conflict with Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"I welcomed my counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, and the Palestinian Authority to Canada for an important discussion on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the path towards lasting peace in the Middle East, with a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel," Joly said in a post on Instagram.

Locally, there have been pro-Palestine marches every weekend since Oct. 7. Pro-Israel rallies and demonstrations have also been held in the capital. Earlier this week, a large crowd gathered on Parliament Hill to stand in solidarity with Israel and to condemn rising antisemitism.

Ottawa police, meanwhile, have reported a 238 per cent rise in hate-motivated incidents and crimes between Oct. 7 and Dec. 2, when compared to the same time last year. Fifty-five of the 71 reported hate incidents and crimes since the start of this most recent conflict were directed at either Jewish or Muslim residents.

--With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press.

Correction

A previous version said this was the eighth straight weekend of protests, but it is, in fact, the ninth. 

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