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3,000 march in Toronto in support of Palestinian people, police estimate

Thousands gathered in downtown Toronto to show their support for Palestinian people on Tuesday evening.

Toronto police estimate that 3,000 people took part in the demonstration against Israeli military actions in Gaza.

The “Hands off Rafah!” protest, which began at 6 p.m. outside the Israeli consulate at Yonge and Bloor streets, made its way to the University of Toronto campus. By about 9 p.m., the group reached a pro-Palestinian encampment set up by students.

Police said there were no arrests and no altercations. The university had requested police presence on campus during the demonstration and a few officers were deployed to observe, police said.

Organizers said the protest was an emergency call to action as Israel begins an assault on Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip.

“The students united will never be defeated!” protesters chanted as they neared the encampment.

By 9:40 p.m., the demonstrators had begun to disperse, police said.

pro-Palestinian demonstrators Toronto
The ‘Hands off Rafah!’ protest began at Yonge and Bloor streets. (CBC)

The student encampment at the U of T, meanwhile, entered its sixth day on Tuesday. Students have set up tents in an area known as King’s College Circle and are calling on the university to disclose its ties with the Israeli government and divest from Israeli companies.

Encampment continues

Erin Mackey, an organizer of the student encampment, said earlier on Tuesday that she is hopeful that the university will meet the students’ demands.

“It is totally possible. They have an ethical investment policy and really all we’re asking is for them to adhere to it,” Mackey said.

As the encampment continues, however, some on campus said they’re feeling uneasy. 

Robert Schwartz, a Jewish professor who teaches at the University of Toronto, said he has spoken with other Jewish faculty members who say the encampment has also made them feel unsafe.

Schwartz said Jewish faculty members who have tried to enter the encampment have been stopped. He said the encampment has essentially restricted part of university property.

“I feel somewhat threatened. I’m very concerned with some of the slogans that are on the signs and some of the chants that are being used and it really feels quite threatening,” Schwartz said.

“I would like to see all of the really hostile slogans on the posters being taken down.”

Still, he said he hoping for a peaceful resolution between the administration and students.

Mackey said Friday it’s important “to point out that anti Zionism is different than anti-Semitism.”

“And that the Israeli government does not represent everyone who is Jewish. And there’s actually a lot of Jewish students who are here, a lot of Jewish faculty who are supporting this encampment.”

War has driven nearly 2 million Gazans from homes

According to the Associated Press, Israeli forces have seized the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

The closed border means U.N. humanitarian teams in Gaza will run out of diesel fuel by Wednesday, a senior humanitarian official said, leaving them unable to pump drinking water, maintain communications and deliver aid.

The war in Gaza has driven around 80 per cent of the territory’s population of 2.3 million from their homes and caused vast destruction to apartments, hospitals, mosques and schools across several cities. The death toll in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, according to local health officials.

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

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