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Speakers call Gaza conflict 'genocide'

Rally at site of rights museum attracts 400

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Baha Alfahouri was one of hundreds of people who took part in Saturday's Rally for Gaza at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

SARAH TAYLOR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Baha Alfahouri was one of hundreds of people who took part in Saturday's Rally for Gaza at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo Store

Hussam Azzam carried his four-and-a-half-year-old son, A.K., on his shoulders for the majority of Saturday afternoon's Rally for Gaza.

Though toting the toddler wasn't comfortable, Azzam said it was important that his son be able to see and learn what is going on in his native Palestine through peaceful demonstrations like the Winnipeg rally.

"It's important to show solidarity with what's going on," said Azzam. "People are starting to realize the horrifying things that are happening back in Palestine. Nobody likes war, but the loss of lives -- it's just sad.

"The problem is that most people don't understand the reality of what's going on there. It's unfortunate, but someone needs to tell the real story," Azzam said.

An estimated 400 people gathered at the foot of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Saturday to protest the ongoing violence in Gaza. Similar rallies took place in some of Canada's other major cities and around the world Saturday, with demonstrations in Paris and elsewhere turning violent.

After an onslaught of air raids ravaged the area this past week, organizers from the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba (CPAM) assembled two rallies to raise awareness about the dangerous conflict -- the first rally took place Monday at the Manitoba Legislative Building and also attracted about 400 people.

Israeli troops pushed into Gaza late Thursday after more than a week of airstrikes failed to halt unrelenting Palestinian rocket fire that has increasingly targeted major Israeli cities. Israel has said the operation is aimed at halting the rockets as well as destroying cross-border tunnels that militants have used to stage raids into Israel.

The military said it has hit more than 2,500 targets in Gaza, including 1,100 rocket launchers, during the 13 days of fighting. It said that some 70 militants were killed and another 13 brought to Israel for questioning.

Gaza militants have fired more than 1,760 rockets at Israeli cities since July 8, the military said.

Gaza has been under a blockade by Israel since the militant Hamas group took control of the strip of land in 2007. The blockade, imposed by Israel to stop the flow of militants and weapons, has since impeded the flow of other goods and services and hurt Gaza's economy.

On Thursday, Israel and Hamas held a mutual five-hour ceasefire on their tenth day of fighting. The government of Egypt, with support from the West, is trying to negotiate between Israel and the Palestinians to stop the violence, but there are no clear signs yet as to when a permanent ceasefire might occur.

Rally for Gaza event organizer Liz Carlyle said the overarching message stemming from Saturday's protest was that the CPAM believes the conflict between Gaza and Israel should not be recognized as a war, but rather a massacre or a genocide of Gaza's population.

Daniel Thau-Eleff, who spoke on behalf of Independent Jewish Voices, called the current situation in Gaza, "an incremental genocide."

"The media sometimes reports what Israel's doing as a war between Israel and Hamas, as if Hamas is the name of an independent country -- it's not. This is mostly a massacre being conducted by a very powerful army against a civilian population," Thau-Eleff said.

Though opinions remain divided on whether Israel or Gaza are propelling the violent behaviour, Azzam said he found it reassuring that North-Americans were starting to cultivate their own opinions on what's happening in the Middle East.

"With social media you hear way more stuff today. It's reassuring at least that people are starting to learn exactly what is going on," said Azzam.

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2014 A3

History

Updated on Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 5:53 AM CDT: Removes wording suggesting Hamas rocket fire is in retaliation for Israeli military strikes.

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