Marchers in Warren call for peace in Gaza, want more than cease-fire
Chants of "Free, free Palestine" reverberated on Sunday afternoon during a peace rally calling for Palestinians' freedom.
After a tentative cease-fire went into effect Friday, demonstrators said they welcome a cessation of bombings that have killed at least 248 Palestinians and 12 people in Israel, but it still doesn't make Palestinians free.
"We always are grateful for a ceasing of violence but a cease-fire is not the same thing as peace because peace is founded in justice, peace is founded in human dignity and the work must continue until we have a true and just and lasting and human rights-focused peace in Palestine," said former gubernatorial candidate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Warren for a rally with a series of speakers that later turned into a march down Van Dyke Avenue.
"It's a good thing that there has been a ceasefire but as soon as something like that happens then the media starts to be silent again so I feel like it's important for people to continue to speak up," said Wafa Mirza, 19, of Warren. "Even though there has been a cease-fire, that's not the end of it because it's been going on for too long."
The 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers came to a fragile halt Friday, but left behind immense ruin in Gaza, including hundreds of homes in that have been completely destroyed and many more that were badly damaged, according to the U.N.
After more than a week of marches and rallies for Palestinians in Michigan, participants made their message on Sunday clear by holding up signs that read "a cease fire won't free Palestine."
"These protest are good because all over the world people are progressing against Israel. People are making it known that this is wrong," said Mohi Ahmed, 50, of Warren.
Thousands of protesters also marched in downtown Detroit on Sunday and in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told “Fox News Sunday” that Israel had dealt Hamas a “heavy blow” and hoped it would serve as a deterrent. But he also expressed hope that the truce could last, noting “over half a decade of relative peace and quiet” after the last round of fighting in 2014.
Lynn Hastings, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said some 300 buildings in Gaza – including an estimated 1,000 homes – had been completely destroyed. She said hundreds more had been heavily damaged. She cautioned that those were “very, very preliminary numbers” as the damage is still being assessed.
Hastings said a total of six hospitals and 11 primary health care centers were damaged, and that one hospital was not functioning because of a lack of electricity. She said around 800,000 people lack access to tap water and 400,000 people do not have proper sewage treatment because of damage to local infrastructure.
Israel says it made every effort to avoid harming civilians and only targeted militant infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network and rocket launchers. It blames the war and its devastation on Hamas.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council and American Jewish Committee, said the cease-fire could be the start of a turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"I think that the focus now really needs to be on rebuilding coexistence," Lopatin said. "We want to strengthen the economy and maybe the social civic infrastructure of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and hopefully Gaza and that will lead, God willing, to a two-state solution."
The Associated Press contributed.