Hundreds Protest, March in Chicago Amid Escalating Tensions Between Israel, Palestinians

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A large group of protesters gathered Wednesday in downtown Chicago amid escalating tensions between Israel and Palestinians.

After gathering at the intersection, protesters began to march northward on Michigan Avenue, then gathered near the Israeli consulate, closing Canal Street between Adams and Washington and Madison between Canal and Clinton.

The protest is taking place as Israel continues to launch airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian militants have launched a barrage of more than 1,000 rockets toward Israeli cities in recent days.

More than 50 people have been killed and hundreds more have been injured in the attacks so far, according to officials.

The protest is expected to include speakers, and is one of at least two planned in the city of Chicago on Wednesday.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, issued a statement Wednesday calling for "prayer and peace" between the two sides, and said that he is prayerful that a de-escalation of tensions can take place.

"There can be no doubt of Israel’s right to a secure existence. Palestinians, too, have a right to statehood, territorial integrity, and safety," Cupich said. "Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have a fundamental right to access safely their holy sites in the City of Peace. All of these rights depend on a mutual commitment to justice. Violent conflict will not advance these rights, but rather it threatens any chance of lasting peace, without which there can be no authentic human flourishing."

In Chicago, friends and family of those civilians caught in the crossfire are waiting to hear from loved ones as the country sees its worst outbreak of violence in at least seven years.

"It's difficult to watch the news and see what's happening to our families and friends there," Hatem Abudayyeh, chairperson of the US Palestinian Community Network, told NBC 5. "They're very careful when they're home, and they're very anxious listening for the air raids."

President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday, saying that Israel had a "right to defend itself" and that he was hopeful that there would be a swift end to hostilities.

"My expectation and hope is this will be closing down sooner than later," Biden said at the White House. "Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory."

Aviv Ezra, Israel Consul General for the Midwestern U.S., echoed the president's sentiments.

"I will tell you what America would do: America would not agree, not for 1,000, not for 100, not for 10, not for a single rocket," Ezra said. "They would exercise their right for self-defense, and this is exactly what Israel is doing."

According to NBC News, clashes in Jerusalem earlier this month escalated into violent unrest on the streets of Arab-Israeli towns. Those clashes ultimately resulted in a deadly aerial conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza.

Militants have launched more than 1,000 rockets toward Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv.

One of those rockets hit a bus in the city of Holon, injuring four people, according to the Washington Post. Rockets also struck near Ben Gurion International Airport, causing a temporary closure and flight cancellations by several major U.S. airlines, including Delta and United.

Israel has retaliated with bombardments of sites in the Gaza Strip, home to more than 2 million Palestinians.

At least 53 people, including 14 children, were killed in the Israeli bombardment, the Gaza Health Ministry told NBC News.

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.  

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