Supporters of Israel, Palestine take to Vancouver’s streets amid escalating Middle East violence

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While the Middle East feels a world away for many British Columbians, and the prospect of lasting peace there a distant concept, dueling demonstrations in Vancouver over the weekend showed how the conflict continues to touch many in this part of the world.

On Sunday, hundreds of supporters of Israel gathered at city hall before marching across town to the art gallery.

Their opinions were diverse, but most people Global News spoke with agreed the conflict was a tragedy for Palestinian civilians — where Israel has no choice but to defend its territory from relentless rocket attacks fired by Hamas in the Gaza strip.

“If separatists in Montreal were lobbing bombs on Sudbury, I think Canadians would understand more clearly what Israelis are dealing with,” demonstrator Avie Estrin said.

On Saturday, more than 1,000 Palestinian supporters gathered at the U.S. Consulate, calling out America’s billions of dollars in military support for Israel, and arguing the escalating conflict was a result of Israeli settler colonialism and occupation of land generations of Palestinians called their own.

“Right now our eyes are on Palestine because this settler colonial project is reaching the extreme that the world has never seen,” one speaker told the crowd.

READ MORE: Israeli military says it bombed home of top Hamas leader as violence in Gaza continues

“The world has never seen this live before. A genocide has never been broadcast like this before.”

Perhaps most tragic is that any of these talking points could easily be inserted into news stories from any decade since the 1940s.

Despite countless summits, accords and cease fires, the cyclical killing still compels activists to take to the streets, even in places as distant as Vancouver.

Saturday’s pro-Palestine march, which mirrored demonstrations across North America, coincided with Nakba Day, which commemorates the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s declaration of independence.

READ MORE: ‘Terrified for our children’: Palestinians flee as heavy fire continues near Gaza City

The protests were stoked by five days of mayhem that left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza and eight dead on the Israeli side. The violence, set off by Hamas firing a rocket into Israel on Monday, came after weeks of mounting tensions and heavy-handed Israeli measures in contested Jerusalem.

Israel stepped up its assault and slammed the Gaza Strip with airstrikes Saturday, in a dramatic escalation that included bombing the home of a senior Hamas leader, killing a family of 10 in a refugee camp and destroying a building that housed the offices of The Associated Press and other media.

-With files from the Associated Press

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