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Rallies for Israel and Palestine march through Ottawa streets


Twin rallies, one for Palestine and one for Israel, marched through downtown Ottawa streets on Sunday on the ninth day of the war between Israel and Hamas, a designated terrorist entity.

Both rallies and marches drew massive crowds. 

A Justice for Palestine rally on George Street in Ottawa's ByWard Market. Oct. 15, 2023. (Ted Raymond/CTV News Ottawa)

Pro-Palestine demonstrators gathered on Parliament Hill Sunday morning before marching around the National War Memorial and into the ByWard Market. Protesters waved Palestinian flags, chanted "free, free Palestine", and held numerous signs calling for an end to the Israeli occupation, for Canada to cease arms sales to Israel and recognize the State of Palestine, and to stop the killing of children.

"I just have a message for Trudeau: stand up. If you are a free man, you should be equal," said Ahmad El Haj, one of the attendees. "Palestinian, Israeli, we are all humans. We deserve life. We deserve to be happy, deserve to be raising our kids in a safe and good environment. All sanctions around Gaza, sending weapons to Israel, shame on you Trudeau."

As of Saturday, Gaza's health ministry said more than 2,400 Palestinians, including more than 700 children, had been killed in Israeli airstrikes responding to last Saturday's attacks by Hamas, which killed more than 1,300 Israelis, the majority of them civilians.

"Silence from the world hurts our feelings. We don't want war anywhere in the world. We want peace for everyone," said Ubna Farah. "We don't want killing people. It's against all religion, all ethics. We want everyone to live in peace. They try, but no place is safe in Gaza. Everything is under attack every minute, every second. Just stop the war. Please stop the war."

Pro-Israel demonstrators gathered later in the afternoon at Ottawa City Hall, before marching toward Parliament Hill. Demonstrators at the 'We Stand with Israel Peace Rally' waved Israeli flags, sang, and held signs that said, "Ottawa stands with Israel" and "here for peace." Some had images of people who had been kidnapped. Hamas has taken more than 100 Israelis hostage.

"Really we just wanted to bring the Jewish community together to feel connected," said organizer Anna Tal. "This is the time that we are all thinking about Israel and so many people have suffered. My husband has a brother and two sisters there; cousins, nieces, nephews, lots of friends. I just want them all to be safe. I've spoken to them; they’re heartbroken, living in and out of bomb shelters. It’s terrible what’s happening."

Ottawa police were on hand at both rallies, directing traffic and closing roads as large crowds of people marched for their respective causes. 

"Our heart is really aching." said Tova Lynch, who attended the pro-Israel rally. "You cannot believe how we feel about it, after all the wars and everything that we have been through."

People waved Israeli flags and sang songs at the 'We Stand with Israel Peace Rally' in Ottawa. Oct. 15, 2023. (Natalie van Rooy/CTV News Ottawa)

The rallies come as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians try to heed Israel's warnings to get out of the territory ahead of a looming ground offensive, all while facing a deepening shortage of food, water, and medicine. Medics in the region warned thousands of wounded people could die for want of supplies.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government confirmed that a fifth Canadian has been killed amid the fighting. Three other Canadians are still missing in the region.

Past pro-Palestine rallies last weekend in cities across Canada, including Ottawa, drew condemnation from politicians like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who accused protesters of celebrating the Hamas attacks.

"We need to address the root cause of all of this and the root cause is 75 years of colonization of Palestinian lands and a brutal seige of Gaza for over 16 years," said Sarah Abdul-Karim, with the Ottawa chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, one of the organizers of the pro-Palestine rally. "All of these things need to be addressed and stopped in order for us to have peace. Peace cannot come without justice and peace cannot come without people being held accountable."

Ottawa police have increased patrols around synagogues and mosques this week, though they have stressed that there is no credible information about any local threats. Still, some at the pro-Israel rally said they feel unsafe.

"As a Jew, I don’t want to feel threatened in my own city," said Evelyn Greenberg. "The city of Ottawa, which I’ve loved for 85 years.”

"This is the first time that we have all contemplated sending our children to school or not," said Tal. "And this is something that we cannot even think of in Canada."

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Jackie Perez and Natalie van Rooy. Top Stories

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