As Palestinians in Gaza reported Israeli airstrikes across the region on Saturday — including in an area where Israel had told civilians to seek refuge — thousands of Torontonians took to the streets to join pro-Palestinian rallies across Canada calling for an immediate ceasefire.
The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war has reached 9,448, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East says 72 of its staff members have been killed.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that started the fighting, and at least 241 hostages taken from Israel are being held in Gaza by the militant group.
Five hostages have been released since Oct. 7.
Demonstrations were set to take place in more than two dozen Canadian cities Saturday. Many come in the wake of a national call for demonstrations by the Palestinian Youth Movement, a grassroots organization with chapters in Canada and the United States that's calling for a ceasefire in the conflict.
'Nowhere that's safe'
In Toronto, demonstrators rallied outside the U.S. Consulate on University Avenue near Queen Street.
Dalia Awwad, a member of the youth movement in Toronto, said the goal was to make it clear to Canada's government how they feel.
"There's nowhere that's safe in Palestine right now," Awwad said. "Our politicians need to represent our voice, which is [why] there needs to be an immediate ceasefire."
Awwad said she wants Canada and the U.S. to unite in the call for an immediate ceasefire to stop what she calls a "genocide" against Palestinians.
On Thursday, a group of seven United Nations human rights experts, known as special rapporteurs, issued a statement saying they are convinced "the Palestinian people are at a grave risk of genocide."
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with U.S. President Joe Biden and said they discussed what he described as the urgent need for a "humanitarian pause" in the war. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that a ceasefire would give Hamas a chance to regroup for another attack.
Awwad said she has family members in both the West Bank and Gaza, and they've had loved ones killed in the Israeli airstrikes.
"My brother-in-law has lost … 24 members of his family, seventeen of whom are children," she said.
Rachel Small attended the rally with a group called "Jews Say No to Genocide." Small said the idea that all Jewish people stand with Israel is incorrect. (Alexis Raymon/Radio-Canada)
Rachel Small attended the rally with a group called "Jews Say No to Genocide." Small said the idea that all Jewish people stand with Israel is incorrect.
"We're seeing the killing of thousands, nearly half of them children. And we're also being told that this is being done in our name as Jews," Small said. "We say: absolutely not. We reject that."
Small also wants Canada to call for a ceasefire in the conflict. Small says there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish Torontonians at Saturday's rally calling for an end to the violence.