Tensions run high as pro-Israel rally met by counter-protest; police deploy tear gas

As tensions flare in the Middle East, a downtown Montreal rally in support of Israel was met with a counter-demonstration on Sunday.

Pro-Israel demonstrator Isabella Hazan said she believed she is fighting for “the rights of Palestinians, because Palestinians in Gaza are being used as human shields.”

But counter-protesters offered a different narrative, with one saying “We have respect for them and we have respect for our country. We'll defend our country like anybody else.”

Though the downtown gathering began peacefully, police deployed tear gas. A video on social media showed a pro-Israel protester driving after the rally when her car was attacked, with the side mirror being damaged.

Montreal police could not be reached for comment or for numbers on how many arrests were made. 

Rex Brynen, a professor of Middle East studies at McGill University, said both sides are likely guilty of war crimes in the decades-old conflict.

He noted that those living in the Palestinian territories have been living without political rights for multiple generations.

“Those being bombed in Gaza are the great-grandchildren of people who were forcibly displaced and the grandchildren who've known nothing but occupation in the cage that is Gaza,” he said.

The current conflict in Israel and Gaza flared up following the threatened evictions of several Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Hamas began firing rockets toward Israel on Monday and Israel has conducted numerous airstrikes on Gaza. At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in the barrage, including 55 children and 33 women.

Another 1,230 people have been wounded and 34,000 people have been displaced from their homes, according to U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland.

Eight people in Israel have been killed by the rocket attacks, including a five-year-old child. 

- With files from The Associated Press