Israel-Palestine conflict spills into the streets of Toronto as protest turns violent
Tensions are escalating once again between Israelis and Palestinians all over the world as violent attacks rock the Gaza strip and West Bank — the deadliest round of fighting in years amid a decades-long conflict that the UN warns could soon break out into a "full-scale war."
Representatives for Hamas-controlled Palestine say that 200 people have been killed and at least 40,000 displaced by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza since the attacks started last week.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say that Hamas rockets have killed at least ten people in Israel, and that about 3,150 rockets had thus far been fired from Gaza toward Jerusalem.
As this heightened conflict enters its second week, supporters and family members of people anywhere near the disputed territories are worried.
Needless to say, most people want the violence and rising death tolls to stop — but their efforts to express that wish are in some cases sparking more conflict here in Canada.
Approximately 5,000 people gathered at Nathan Philips Square in Toronto on Saturday afternoon, according to police, as part of a peaceful protest organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement.
Held in support of people in besieged Gaza, the demonstration was one of many similar events being held simultaneously across North America this weekend.
A smaller group expressing support for Israel was also present, and video footage posted from both sides show that there were scuffles amid the protest.
One Jewish person who was being escorted from Nathan Phillips Square Saturday said on Instagram that "Jews started getting attacked immediately.... Pro-Palestinians protesters were throwing water bottles and at some point rocks were also thrown at us."
Palestinian supporters meanwhile allege that the Jewish Defence League "was the initiator of violence at the Toronto Pro-Palestine Solidarity rally at City Hall on May 15th."
Footage has been circulating since Saturday of an older Jewish man being chased by several young men carrying Palestinian flags. The man is hit and then kicked on the ground as a brawl breaks out around him. A newer, longer version of the clip released Monday appears to show people who are said to be JDL members calling them on.
Reports of who started the fight, which broke out near the Toronto bus terminal, vary widely, but roughly a dozen men from both camps were seen battling it out in a parking lot.
Both Toronto mayor John Tory and Ontario premier Doug Ford condemned the fighting after seeing the video.
"Hate, anti-Semitism and violence have no place in our city. Any violence against our city's Jewish community or members of any other community in Toronto is absolutely unacceptable," said Tory in a statement on Sunday.
"I have been in touch with Chief James Ramer and have made available to him a video of a particularly disturbing incident which had been sent to me."
Toronto Police say they're actively investigating the "assault on a man by several people that has been circulating on social media."
"This incident took place outside of Nathan Phillips Square and is being actively investigated by police," wrote the police service. "The public are also asked to please contact 52 Division with any information, including images or videos. The Service will provide an update as soon as possible."
All we can say for certain is that the pro-Palestine rally was huge, long (car rallies lasted well into the night,) and filled with passionate protesters advocating on behalf of Palestinian people who face potential eviction from their homes in east Jerusalem by order of Israel's Supreme Court.
We also know that charges have been laid against two people (a 22-year-old Thornhill man and a 29-year-old Toronto man) in relation to the events at Nathan Phillips Square during Saturday's demonstration.
More charges could come down the line, according to police, who say they "are continuing to investigate this event and have been clear that organizers and attendees of events are subject to enforcement and that charges can be laid in the days following events."
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