Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrations drew hundreds in Chicago and in Northbrook on Sunday amid a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza stemming from the Israel-Hamas war.
Nasma Rashid, 14, of Chicago was among those who gathered at Michigan Avenue and Pearson Street in Streeterville.
“I decided to come out today to stand with my people. It’s very scary what’s happening in Gaza,” said Nasma, who is Palestinian.
Her friend, Masa Alhazamah, 15, said they were opposed to U.S. aid to Israel.
They have family in the West Bank, but they were showing support for all Palestinians.
“Gaza’s all of our family,” Masa said.
Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 11,000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza, more than 4,500 of them children, since the war broke out, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
An Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israelis, according to Israeli officials. The foreign ministry had initially reported the death toll at 1,400.
Speakers decried recent Israeli strikes against Gaza’s largest hospital, which Palestinian officials described as “a deathtrap.”
Thaer Ahmad, who works at global health nonprofit Medglobal, which has an office in Gaza, said the organization has lost contact with staff members who are trapped inside Al-Shifa Hospital.
“This has to stop. Hospitals cannot be a target. Hospitals are not a legitimate target,” he said.
Israel, without providing evidence, has accused Hamas of concealing a command post inside and under the hospital compound, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that about 100 people had been evacuated from the hospital and that Israel had created safe corridors.
Hatem Abudayyeh, national chair of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, which organized Sunday’s protest, said his group had no plans to stop the protests any time soon and would continue to rally, whether at the houses of politicians, at town hall meetings, at events or at their offices.
The group had shut down the street outside Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s house in Evanston and occupied her office. It also staged a sit-in at Rep. Sean Casten’s office in Glen Ellyn and protested outside a fundraiser for President Joe Biden at Ignite Glass Studios, 401 N. Armour St., on Thursday.
“They’re absolutely complicit right now,” Abudayyeh said.
In Northbrook’s Village Green Park, pro-Israel protesters gathered in opposition to a smaller pro-Palestinian event.
Alison Pure-Slovin, the Midwest regional director of the Simon Weisenthal Center, said the group had put together the event to be a vigil to honor the nearly 240 hostages taken by Hamas in the initial October attack.
“There can be no ceasefire without our hostages back,” Pure-Slovin said. A ceasefire “just gives an opportunity for Hamas to regroup.”
Anna Tarkov, a Jewish Northbrook resident who organized the smaller pro-Palestinian action there, said she expected a small crowd of supporters and large opposition, but she wanted to push through.
“I just wanted to plant the flag and hold space,” Tarkov said. “It just matters to be visible, in this community especially.”
Contributing: Associated Press