Rally to prod Harper

Group says they’re ‘trapped like rats’ in Gaza by ‘apartheid regime’

As Israeli rockets rained down on the Gaza Strip for a seventh day yesterday, Palestinians and Arab organizations in Toronto condemned the military action and called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to decry the violence.

Palestine House said over 400 Palestinians have been killed and as many as 2,000 more injured by the Israeli military in the last week, making this the single worst deadly assault in Gaza since it was occupied in 1967.

“These people no longer exist with us on this planet because of the massacres the Israeli apartheid regime is committing against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip,” Rafeef Ziadah of Palestine House told reporters at the Sheraton Hotel. “About 1.5 million are trapped like rats for Israeli military to do anything they want to a civilian population that has no way of protecting themselves.” Palestinian supporters are preparing for a 2 p.m. rally today at Dundas Square.

Alaa Khalaf, 22, a third-generation Palestinian living in Toronto, said she calls her grandmother, who lives near one of the bombing sites, twice a day to make sure she’s OK.

“If we don’t get hold of her, we’re terrified,” she said. “There’s no food, water, electricity. She’s been in complete darkness for three days.”

Organizers of the conference are pushing the Canadian government to open the Egyptian border to allow relief aid and medical supplies to reach civilians in Gaza, said Mohamed Boudjenane of the Canadian Arab Federation. They also want Harper to decry the killings, despite previous statements that he wouldn’t accept Hamas as long as it supports terrorism and calls for the destruction of Israel. “Let’s remember that the Harper government was the first government to cut ties with Gaza and to cut aid to Palestinians when Hamas was democratically elected,” Boudjenane said. “The position of Canada encouraged the violence.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon called for a ceasefire to the violence in Gaza last week. Canada-Israel Committee CEO Shimon Fogel agreed with Cannon.

“Hamas’ strategy is not only bringing grief to Israelis and the hundreds of thousands which have had to flee their homes from the south of Israel, but it’s brought misery to Palestinians,” Fogel said. Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario president Sid Ryan said he supports an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, to say Israeli academics “should not be on our campuses unless they condemn the (Dec. 29 Gaza) university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general.”

World Vision Canada said they will provide emergency assistance to 50,000 of the most vulnerable children.