This post was updated on July 20 at 7:47 p.m.
More than a thousand protesters, including several UCLA students and faculty, marched to the Israeli consulate from Westwood’s Federal Building Sunday afternoon urging Israel to stop launching airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, in the latest in a series of local demonstrations from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine supporters.
Since Israel officially began its major offensive on July 8, 432 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and 20 Israelis have died, according to the Associated Press. More than 3,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis have been injured. As the conflict has escalated, tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled the Gaza Strip for United Nations shelters.
Leaders of Sunday’s pro-Palestine rally said they met with the Los Angeles Police Department on Thursday to organize a peaceful protest. Demonstrators marched from the Federal Building west to the Israeli consulate in Santa Monica, waving Palestinian flags and repeating chants like “Free, free Palestine.”
Protesters also wrote several chants on the sidewalk and street on Wilshire Boulevard, expressing their dissatisfaction with the Israeli government’s actions. Members of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, the Muslim Student Association and Jewish Voice for Peace participated in the rally as well.
At the end of the rally, the leaders of the protest thanked LAPD officers for working with them throughout the demonstration. There were no arrests made, according to police officers at the protest, although multiple vocal disagreements broke out between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel supporters at the rally.
Israel has claimed it is launching airstrikes out of self-defense to protect citizens from thousands of rockets launched by Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip for eight years and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. The Israeli government has claimed that Hamas is using civilians as human shields and that Israel is making an effort to warn civilians before bombing buildings with people in them.
But the rising death toll of Palestinian civilians has led to outrage among many and sparked protests like Sunday’s in Westwood.
Omar Issa Attar, a third-year computer science student, said he thinks Israel’s claim does not justify that 80 percent of Palestinians killed have been civilians, a figure the United Nations announced last week. Attar said he thinks Israel has not been doing enough.
“Where are (Palestinians) going to go?” Attar said, talking about how the Israeli military has urged Palestinians to flee before airstrikes hit in Gaza. “Borders are closed, and there’s nowhere to go.”
Sarah Haley, a UCLA gender studies and African American studies professor, said she came to the protest to support her pro-Palestine students and the people in Palestinian territories, among other reasons.
“I see my students fighting every day,” Haley said. “It’s important that professors, as concerned members of the community, show up when there are causes that they believe in.”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has condemned Israel’s most recent actions, calling them “atrocious” and saying that Israel should do more to defend its citizens. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has supported Israel and said it has a right to defend itself against Hamas.
Both the United Nations and the U.S. have called for a ceasefire in the conflict, but efforts for a ceasefire have failed repeatedly.
Following a series of airstrikes from Israel and rocket attacks from Hamas, Israel sent ground troops into Gaza Thursday. Israel said it is targeting tunnels built to infiltrate Israel or store Hamas’ weapons.
Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said in a statement Sunday that Kerry will travel to Egypt early Monday to urge both Israel and Hamas to come to a ceasefire.
Last weekend, four pro-Palestine protesters were arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon after they allegedly harassed protesters in a pro-Israel rally attended by more than a thousand people.
Compiled by Jeong Park, Bruin senior staff.