A dark and rainy night didn’t stop hundreds of people from rallying in downtown Vancouver Thursday night to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The event was one of nearly 100 across Canada and the U.S., under the banner of “shut it down for Palestine.”
Following speeches on the stairs of the Vancouver Art Gallery, protesters took to the streets, marching to a fundraiser for federal Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly in Yaletown.
“We are calling for a ceasefire,” protester Janine Solanki told Global News.
“Israel has been bombing daily,” she added, pointing to the destruction of hospitals, mosques and churches in the Gaza strip.
Demonstrators want to pressure the minister to halt what she alleged was Canada’s unequivocal support of the Israeli government, which she accused of “indiscriminate bombing of the Gaza strip and also attacking Palestinians in the West Bank.”
“What we are demanding is peace for all in Palestine,” she said.
Demonstrator Flora Cholac said her husband was Palestinian, and that she had friends in Gaza and the West Bank who were being forced from their homes.
“This is not about being against Jewish people. This is about being against this genocide,” she said.
“It is really sad to see our leaders to not represent the people of the world.”
Earlier Thursday, Israel agreed to begin daily four-hour pauses in the northern Gaza Strip to allow civilians to flee the hostilities, following pressure from the U.S.
Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday that the military was undertaking “localized, pinpoint measures” in Gaza to enable Palestinian refugees to flee the fighting with Hamas, in an apparent reference to the four-hour pauses announced by Washington.
The war would continue until Hamas is toppled and hostages held in Gaza are freed, he said.
The demonstration comes more than a month after Hamas gunmen stormed into Israel, slaughtering an estimated 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and taking 240 hostages.
Israel responded with heavy bombardment and a ground invasion that the Gaza health ministry estimates has killed more than 10,000 people, including more than 4,000 children.
Earlier Thursday, 32 more Canadians were able to leave the Gaza strip for Egypt after a key border crossing opened, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Israel to ensure that the newly agreed-upon humanitarian pauses in the fighting would last long enough for people to leave the area and for aid to arrive.
“We’ve been calling for weeks now for humanitarian pauses,” Trudeau said at a Thursday press conference.
“They need to be significant; they need to last long enough to get people out (and) to get supplies in. And we have to start using them to start thinking about what the medium term and long term is.”
— With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press