Throngs of people in countries including United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand took to the streets on Saturday to stand in solidarity with Palestinians amid the ongoing escalation of deadly violence in Gaza and Israel.
Thousands of people rallied in Washington, D.C. Some waved Palestinian flags and signs saying “Free Palestine” and “Save Sheikh Jarrah,” a reference to a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Similar demonstrations were held in other U.S. cities, including New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, Dallas, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. (Story continues below.)
As the protests unfolded Saturday, Israeli forces attacked Gaza City, destroying a 12-story building that housed offices for The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets. The AP said it “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life” as the dozen or so AP journalists and freelancers who were inside the building managed to evacuate in time.
AP President Gary Pruitt said he was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy” a building that it knew was home to several news organizations.
The Israeli military defended its attack on the press building, which it said had also housed Hamas military offices.
“Hamas has turned residential areas in the Gaza Strip into military strongholds,” Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “When Hamas uses a tall building for military purposes, it becomes a lawful military target. ... The Israel Defense Forces struck a number of such buildings in recent days, but before we did so, we took steps to try and ensure that civilians would not be harmed.”
The attack came on the heels of an air raid Israeli forces carried out on a refugee camp in the city. At least 10 Palestinians, most of them children, were killed.
The White House said President Joe Biden had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the attacks and expressed his concerns “about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection.”
Biden told Netanyahu that he supported Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from the militant group Hamas and condemned attacks on Israel. Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv this week.
Biden also “noted that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children,” according to the White House.
Palestine says at least 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, have been killed by violence in the Gaza Strip since Monday. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children, according to Reuters.
Rallies condemning the the violence were held this week in major cities around the world, including London and Cardiff in the U.K., Auckland in New Zealand, Sydney in Australia, and Montreal and Toronto in Canada.