Activists protesting the killings of Palestinians in Gaza, including the deaths of women and children, during three days of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza militants are calling on the Canadian government to stop the sale of arms to Israel.
The protest Wednesday at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street came just days after the worst cross-border violence between Israel and Gaza militants since an 11-day war with Hamas last year.
On Aug. 5, Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes on Gaza in what it called Operation Breaking Dawn. The Israeli military said it was targeting the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in response to what it called on social media an "imminent threat of attack against Israeli civilians."
Israeli aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group retaliated by firing more than 1,000 rockets.
The death toll after three days of fighting has risen to 47 after a man later died from his wounds, the Health Ministry in Gaza said Thursday. Several militants were among those killed, including two senior Islamic Jihad commanders, one of whom Israel said it targeted in order to foil an imminent attack.
Also among the dead were 16 children and four women, the Health Ministry said.
Israel has said some of the deaths were caused by errant rocket fire from militants in Gaza, including one incident in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza in which six Palestinians were killed Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jabalia, killing two men.
Palestinian officials held Israel responsible, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was hit by an errant rocket.
'Great turnout' at protest
In Ottawa Wednesday, people carrying pro-Palestinian flags and posters clustered around the Human Rights Monument.
After speeches calling on the Canadian government to examine its role in the crisis, they marched to the Prime Minister's Office and the Embassy of Israel in the downtown core.
"I think the core message of our protest is amplifying the Palestinians' right to resist," said Sarah Abdul-Karim, an organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement of Ottawa.
As one of the groups that helped organize Wednesday's protest, it's demanding that the federal government stop selling arms to Israel.
Government data show Canada sent military goods and technology valued at more than $26 million to Israel in 2021, or nearly 1 per cent of total arms exports to all countries except the U.S. That's up from $18.9 million in 2020 (nearly 1 per cent of the non-U.S. total) and $13.7 million in 2019 (0.4 per cent of the non-U.S. total).
"Beyond that we demand freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners and we demand that Canada pressures Israel to free Palestinian political prisoners," Abdul-Karim said.
Radi Shahrouri, president of the Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians, said: "We're here to condemn the actions of Israel and its government and its army, and to also ask that our government, the Canadian government, not to be complicit with those actions."
Shahrouri said the protestors that turned out Wednesday consisted of a wide cross section of society, representing the diversity of Ottawa.
"It's a great turnout. There's many supporters of the Palestinian cause, which is a human rights cause. We have people from different backgrounds. We don't just have people who are Palestinians or Arab," Shahrouri said.