100 here protest attacks in Gaza

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About 100 protesters, waving Palestinian flags and holding handmade signs bearing messages such as "End The Occupation," fought biting winds yesterday to protest the Israeli military assault on Gaza.

At Liberty Avenue and Grant Street, they gathered during rush hour traffic to show their opposition to the fighting in the territory, namely Israel's air attacks on Hamas targets.

Many at the rally -- dubbed the "Stop the War on Gaza! Regional Rally" -- said they were urging residents to tell lawmakers to make halting violence a priority.

"It's incredible, the outpouring of solidarity and disgust with what's happening," organizer Kate Daher said after the rally.

"We want the bombing to end," said Omar Hijleh, 37, of Regent Square. "We want them to end the siege in Gaza."

Mr. Hijleh is a member of Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee, one of several peace and justice and student groups who demonstrated in the busy intersection yesterday. He said Israel's punishing air attacks are a "completely disproportionate" response to Hamas' rocket fire.

"In reality this is creating a situation on the ground where the Palestinians are completely desperate, they're completely besieged, and they're completely hopeless," he said.

Jim Niesen and Barbara Mackenzie-Wood, of Point Breeze, agreed Israel's bombing was "an overreaction."

The couple, who held signs more than an hour despite the wind and snow in below-freezing temperatures, also said they believe the fighting is unfairly portrayed in American media, which, they said, tends to take a pro-Israeli stance.

Others said they hoped the fighting would stop so that humanitarian aid can be delivered to the Gaza Strip.

"The people of Gaza cannot get food or medicine, and they live under constant fear," Ms. Daher said. "We want Congress to condemn these attacks and ask our ally Israel to stop the attacks on Gaza."

Sadie Gurman can be reached at sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878.


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