SAN DIEGO — As the ongoing war rages in Israel, nearly a thousand people gathered in downtown San Diego on Sunday to show their support for the Palestinian people.
Young children with the Palestinian Youth Movement chanted “free Palestine” on the steps of the San Diego County Administration Building throughout the afternoon.
They were joined by hundreds of demonstrators waving flags and holding up signs to show solidarity with the Palestinians impacted by the conflict.
The protest echoes other demonstrations in cities across the globe that have drawn out thousands to call for the end of “Israeli occupation” since last Saturday, when Hamas launched a surprise attack that killed more than 1,300 Israeli citizens.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the country was at war with the militants, prompting thousands of retaliatory air strikes and a “complete siege” of Gaza.
As of 9 p.m. Sunday, about 2,670 Palestinians — including at least 724 children — have been killed and 9,600 wounded since fighting erupted, according to the Gaza Health Ministry — more casualties than in the 2014 Gaza war that lasted six weeks.
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 155 others, including children, were captured by militants and taken into Gaza.
The conflict has also resulted in the displacement of nearly half the population in Gaza, many of whom fleeing their homes ahead of a looming invasion of the enclave by Israeli forces that seeks to dismantle the militant group.
Those at San Diego’s rally told FOX 5 that they were there to call attention to the toll that Israel’s response to the Hamas attack has had on those living in Gaza.
“I’m here to spread awareness and educate people on what’s really going on in Palestine and everything that the kids and the people are going through in Gaza,” said one of the protestors, Hekmat Zeidan. She added that the protest also aimed to “clarify that (Palestinians) want peace.”
For Zeidan, the escalation of the war is hitting close to home.
“My parents are stuck there right now and they are American citizens, so we are trying to get them out as well,” she said.
Across from the pro-Palestine rally, on Harbor Drive, pro-Israel supporters briefly counter-protested and held a sign that compared Hamas to the terrorist group ISIS.
Some of the supporters FOX 5 spoke with Sunday did not agree that Hamas is a terrorist group. Although organizers clarified that their demonstration was not affiliated with the extremists.
“We as a movement are independent,” said Ramah Adwad, who helped organize the rally. “We don’t have any affiliation with a political parties. Our purpose is to raise awareness of what’s happening in Palestine and I think it’s important to take the actions of Hamas — or any political group in Palestine — within the context of a 75-year colonial occupation.”
“It’s not a terrorist organization,” Zeidan said. “It’s a freedom fighting group that was changed and taken away from us.”
The rally Sunday was not the first of its kind in San Diego. Prior to the conflict, the Palestinian Youth Movement has held several rallies, but typically of smaller size.
Aside from the protest, the Palestinian Youth Movement said they are also calling on local elected officials to condemn the recent Israeli attacks, including through a letter recently delivered to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
Along other local elected officials, Gloria has shown his support for Israel.
“San Diego stands with the people of Israel and condemns Hamas’ attacks in the strongest possible terms,” he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.