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Pro-Palestinian protest blocks parts of downtown Ottawa Monday morning

Protesters gathered in downtown Ottawa for a pro-Palestinian protest and blocked the EDC building on Monday morning. April 15, 2024. (Adam Zuccala/CTV News Ottawa) Protesters gathered in downtown Ottawa for a pro-Palestinian protest and blocked the EDC building on Monday morning. April 15, 2024. (Adam Zuccala/CTV News Ottawa)
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A pro-Palestinian protest took place in downtown Ottawa on Monday morning as tensions in the Middle East continue to increase with the Israel-Hamas war entering its seventh month.

Protesters were seen holding signs calling for a ceasefire gathered and blocked the front entrance of the Export Development Canada (EDC) building at 150 Slater Street.

Organizers say the protest was part of a "coordinated economic blockage" in support of Palestine. Protesters are calling on Canada to stop sending arms to Israel, who they say is fueling the killing of thousands in the Gaza Strip.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, EDC said pamphlets distributed at the protest claiming that EDC has facilitated arms exports to Israel are inaccurate.

"EDC has a Defence and Security Position that prohibits us from providing support to weapons or weapons-based systems and guides our decision-making for the sector more broadly to ensure we manage human rights-related risks. In addition, EDC’s Human Rights Policy is aligned with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other international best practices, and we bring a lens of sustainable and responsible business to all our transactions," the statement said. "EDC supports the rights of all Canadians to peacefully protest. Protests like these underscore the importance of ensuring that we support companies that align with our core values and meet the requirements of our ESG policies."

The protests are part of coordinated demonstrations in several cities in Canada and across the world taking place on April 15 to block major economic hubs that fund Israel.

The Ottawa Police Service were on the scene and asked residents to avoid the area if possible.

Demonstrators had cleared the scene by around 10 a.m. and the intersection of Slater and O'Connor streets reopened. 

Tensions in the Middle East are at an all-time high after Iran launched unprecedented airstrikes on Israel on Saturday evening. Israel said almost all the more than 300 drones and missiles launched overnight by Iran were shot down by its anti-missile defence system, backed by the U.S. and Britain.

All eyes are now on whether Israel chooses to take further military action, while Washington seeks diplomatic measures instead to ease regional tensions.

Israel declared war in response to Hamas' unprecedented cross-border attack on Oct. 7 in which the Islamic militant group killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 others hostage. It was the deadliest attack in Israel's history and the deadliest for Jews since the Holocaust.

A Palestinian flag being waved at a demonstration in downtown Ottawa on April 15, 2024. (Adam Zuccala/CTV News Ottawa)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the actions of Israel's response in recent weeks, demanding a full investigation into an Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers, including a Canadian-U.S. citizen, who were delivering desperately needed food to the Gaza Strip.

More than one million Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced, and aid agencies warn the situation is dire, with access to food and medicine extremely limited. 

With files from The Associated Press

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