More than 200 people took to the streets of Kansas City Saturday in support of Palestine as Israeli airstrikes of the Gaza Strip continued into the weekend.
The Organizer of “KC Rally for Palestine,” 23-year-old Ahmed Haha, said the event, which started at the Country Club Plaza, came together over the last four days. He has family that lives in Palestine. He said he didn’t want to wait for somebody else to speak up, so he took action.
Protesters chanted “free, free Palestine” and “the people united will never be divided,” as cars passing by honked in support.
One speaker shared his thoughts: “I am another Jew who is against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.”
He said his great grandparents died in the Holocaust.
“This is a human rights issue. This is an issue of humanity. And I wish all of my fellow Jews would throw aside the propaganda that they were taught that still get spoken today by leaders all over the world.”
Another woman shared her story of formerly living in Gaza with her two daughters. She said they would sleep together so that they would die together. Now, in the United States, she fears for the lives of her parents. She said she can’t sleep at night.
Raneem Akkila and twin sisters Mennah and Jannah Hajeh — college students from Lee’s Summit — joined the march Saturday. Jannah Hajeh said this rally isn’t part of a trend. It’s a movement.
“It seems that people don’t notice what’s going on in the Middle East because it’s the Middle East — it’s not happening in America. It seems the world goes blind,” Jannah Hajeh, 19, said.
All three women have family from Palestine. Akkila said her grandmother calls her every day.
“I can’t go visit her, she can’t leave and visit me,” Akkila, 20, said. “And she calls me every day and she’s telling us how she hears airstrikes every day that she can’t sleep.”
Akkila said she wants people to be educated on the conflict because this “shouldn’t happen to anybody.”
Mennah Hajeh, 19, pointed out that today marks Al Nakba — when nearly 800,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes.
“It’s been that way since 1948 ... Palestinians were forced to leave their homes, to flee their homeland, and it’s still happening today,” she said.
Mennah Hajeh also lamented the Saturday bombing of building that housed media outlets — including Al Jazeera and The Associated Press.
“They bombed that why? Because they don’t want people to actually see what’s happening over there,” Mennah Hajeh said.
They said they want peace and they want Palestine to be free.
“How would you feel if somebody came into your house and said this is mine now? Came into your home, threw your whole family out?” Jannah Hajeh said. “Kids are dying every day. Parents are dying every day. Families are being separated from each other. They’re being separated and that’s just not right. It’s not humane.”
Rallies across the country — pulling crowds into the hundreds — joined in protest Saturday, including in Los Angeles and Boston.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the ongoing campaign against Palestinian militants, now in its sixth day, will “continue as long as needed,” The Associated Press reported.
The prime minister spoke Saturday in Tel Aviv from Israel’s defense ministry headquarters and issued a warning to leaders of Gaza’s militant Hamas group after a series of airstrikes targeted high-level officials and commanders.
Israel slammed the Gaza Strip with airstrikes on Saturday, in a dramatic escalation that included bombing the home of a senior Hamas leader, killing a family of 10 in a refugee camp — most of them children — and pulverizing a highrise that housed The Associated Press and other media, The Associated Press reported.
The Hamas militant group continued a stream of rocket volleys into Israel, and one man was killed when a rocket hit his home in a suburb of Tel Aviv.
On Friday, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council in a news release called for the end of the violence.
“The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council has watched with sadness and horror the violence unfolding in Israel-Palestine these past several days,” the organization, comprised of 22 faith traditions and philosophies, wrote. “We grieve the loss of life and join members of the international interfaith community in calling for an end to all violence in this region that so many of our members hold sacred.”
At Brush Creek in Kansas City on Saturday, protesters tore down the Israeli flag from a post alongside Ward Parkway. They hung a Palestinian flag next to the American flag along the road and continued their march through the district.
In a statement, the Jewish Community Relations Bureau|American Jewish Committee said while it supported the right to peacefully protest, it was “horrified by the destruction” of the Israeli flag. The organization said it would work to replace it swiftly.
“There are no winners when people die and terror rains down from the skies,” the statement read. “We mourn the loss of life, anguish with the pain of the wounded, and feel for the lives displaced and disrupted by this tragic conflict.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting.