Gaza conflict brings out Chicago supporters from both sides

SHARE Gaza conflict brings out Chicago supporters from both sides

On one side of the street, hundreds of Israeli supporters holding blue and white flags gathered.

On the other, pro-Palestine activists stared across and demanded an end to Israeli “apartheid.”

The heated standoff on Tuesday outside the Israeli consulate in the Loop lasted more than an hour and ended with one arrest, according to Chicago Police.

Andrew Glatz, 37, of Lincolnwood, was charged with one misdemeanor count of a concealed carry violation. He’s scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 23, according to Officer Thomas Sweeney, a police spokesman.

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The demonstrations were held as Israelis are fighting Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel since fighting began on July 8. In response, Israeli airstrikes continued to pummel Gaza tunnels, rocket launchers and militants on the 15th day of the war Tuesday as diplomatic efforts intensified to end fighting that has killed at least 630 Palestinians and 29 Israelis — 27 soldiers and two civilians.

Israel says its troops have killed hundreds of Hamas gunmen, while Gaza officials say the vast majority have been civilians, many of them children.

The afternoon in Chicago started with an organized, pro-Israel rally.

Many Israeli flags are held up in the crowd at a pro-Israel rally Tuesday afternoon outside the Israeli Consulate. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times  

The event was cordoned off and more than 1,000 supporters passed through a security check before gathering to sing peace songs in Hebrew and to show support for friends and family that are in Israel.

Many people in pro-Israel crowd said they felt goosebumps to see the large crowd come together and sing songs, including the Israeli national anthem.

The Consul General of Israel in Chicago, Roey Gilad, said after the rally “the feeling was awesome.”

Also in support of Israel was Debra Clair, an attorney from Rogers Park.

Holding an Israeli flag, she got emotional.

“I just wish that the people in Gaza had leadership that were concerned about their safety,” the 53-year-old said.

As the Israeli rally was underway, which organizers said was intended to be peaceful, more than 150 supporters of Palestine arrived and demonstrated outside the secured area.

Shahid Mohammed (left) and Firas Harb demonstrate at the Coalition for Justice in Palestine counter-protest Tuesday afternoon near the pro-Israel rally. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times  ​

Once the cordoned-off rally was finished, the stand-off began. It appeared neither group wanted to be the first to leave the Loop.

On the pro-Palestine side, dozens of people waved the red, green, black and white Palestinian flag while  chanting  phrases like “We know what that rally was for — occupation and war.”

In that group was teacher Muawiyah Abukhdeir who said his teenage cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir was burned alive in a suspected revenge attack by Israeli extremists.

The 33-year-old said he was demonstrating for the rights of the Palestinians.

“It’s nothing about the end of Israel,” the Hyde Park resident said. “It’s about basic human rights.”

As emotions flared in Chicago, the Federal Aviation Administration told U.S. airlines they could not fly to the Tel Aviv airport in Israel for 24 hours following a Hamas rocket explosion nearby.

After the rally, Gilad said that incident was “misfortunate,” but pointed to Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which has intercepted “hundreds” of missiles already.

Contributing: Associated Press

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