SAN DIEGO — Nearly a thousand people marched through downtown San Diego on Saturday to call for a ceasefire as conditions continue to worsen for Palestinian civilians amid intensifying Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.
The demonstrators echoed similar calls from other protests held in cities around the world on the day that the first trickle of humanitarian aid entered the enclave since the beginning of the war over two weeks ago.
Waving Palestinian flags and holding signs that read “Free Palestine,” participants gathered near the U.S. District Court of Southern California in solidarity with those in Gaza, pushing for the end to Israel’s blockade and retaliatory airstrikes launched on the enclave.
It was the third pro-Palestinian protest in San Diego since the conflict erupted on Oct. 7, when the extremist militant group Hamas launched a brutal surprise attack on Israel.
“We need more support for Palestinians in Gaza, but also here in the U.S. as well,” said Sarah Farouq, a community organizer with the San Diego for Palestine Coalition. The coalition organized Saturday’s demonstration.
“It affects thousands of people and the fact that people in Gaza have been displaced from their homeland … hundreds of thousands are seeking shelter,” she continued. “(But) this is not just an issue overseas — folks here in San Diego are being affected. We have our own community members that have family in Gaza and Palestine.”
Authorities in Gaza say more than 4,300 people — including more than 1,000 children — have been killed in Israel’s bombardment on the densely-packed territory since Oct. 7. Over 1,200 others are still believed to be below the rubble, according to Palestinian health officials.
More than 1,400 Israelis have died in the conflict, the vast majority being civilians that were killed in the initial Oct. 7 assault by Hamas. At least 200 others, including children, were captured by militants and taken into Gaza, according to the Israeli military.
Two American hostages, a mother and her teenage daughter, were freed on Friday.
Meanwhile, over a million people have been displaced, including hundreds of thousands of residents that fled northern Gaza after Israel issued an evacuation order ahead of an expected ground invasion of the territory.
On Saturday, 20 trucks delivered much needed supplies to civilians to the besieged strip, including canned food, basic medical supplies, medicines and water. United Nations officials say it is just a “tiny fraction” of what is needed for those sheltering in the area as a result of the conflict.
This comes as a Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) introduced a resolution alongside a coalition of progressive representatives to urge President Biden to work towards a ceasefire and de-escalation of the conflict.
“I am grieving for every Palestinian, Israeli, and American life lost to this violence, and my heart breaks for all those who will be forever traumatized because of it,” Bush said in a statement introducing her resolution.
“War and retaliatory violence doesn’t achieve accountability or justice; it only leads to more death and human suffering,” she added. “The United States bears a unique responsibility to exhaust every diplomatic tool at our disposal to prevent mass atrocities and save lives.”
United Nations chief António Guterres similarly urged for a ceasefire in the conflict earlier this week, warning that the “region is on the precipice” of catastrophe.
Activists at Saturday’s demonstration called for San Diego officials to follow suit.
The coalition said it had issued a letter to County Supervisors, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and several members of the San Diego City Council — many of whom have shown support for Israel — imploring them to support a ceasefire.
“We are calling on our local electeds … to speak up against this, to speak up against the violence,” Farouq said. “We’re not being heard and we want to make sure that we’re being supported by our local elected officials and that our federal elected officials are standing on the right side of history in demanding a ceasefire immediately.”
The group also hoped to raise awareness about the 75 year-long military occupation by the Israeli government on both Gaza and the West Bank that human rights organizations like Amnesty International have argued amounts to an apartheid system.
“We wouldn’t be here in the first place if there wasn’t an occupation and a siege on Gaza (and) the West Bank territories,” Farouq said. “This did not start on Oct. 7. This has been going on for decades and so people need to start paying attention to what is happening — everybody has a role to play in ending this genocide that is going on against Palestinians.”