Several hundred people opposed to the fighting in Gaza yesterday rallied outside the Lucas County Courthouse, flashing peace placards and shouting anti-war chants.
Displaying signs with slogans such as "Stop the War," and "Gaza Will Never Die," protesters marched peacefully around the courthouse two times and listened to brief speeches delivered from the steps of the building's President William McKinley monument.
Amjad Doumani, 50, one of the rally organizers, said his wife is from Gaza and his family feels fortunate to have been able to contact relatives there by phone.
"They're hunkered down in their houses listening to the constant screaming of rockets and bombs," Mr. Doumani said. "Gaza has been under siege for the last three years and now this. There's no electricity. No food. The latest count today was 400 Palestinians killed and 2,000 wounded. It's a massacre."
The protest was organized by the United Muslims Association of Toledo, a group that seeks to improve the lives of Muslims in Toledo and to promote interfaith understanding.
"We are here because we hope to be a voice for justice," said Ziad Hummos, 43, a native of Jaffa, Israel, who has lived in the United States for 20 years.
"America was the voice of reason when [Bill] Clinton was president. He achieved peace in Ireland and in Bosnia and tried hard to bring peace to the Middle East. The last eight years, America has been a broker for war. But I hope Bush can end the violence and achieve peace in the Middle East before leaving office."
Mr. Hummos' 11-year-old son, Adam, said he is worried about a friend and former soccer teammate who moved from Toledo to Gaza a few years ago. He has not been able to contact his friend since the latest round of fighting began.
Rabbi Alan Sokobin, rabbi emeritus of the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim in Sylvania, said in a later interview that Israel's military actions are aimed at halting the barrage of rockets fired over the border from Gaza by Hamas militants.
"In physics, for every action there is a reaction. Had Hamas not sent hundreds of rockets into southern Israel, there would not have been a reaction," Rabbi Sokobin said.
Some of the Hamas rockets have hit civilian areas, including an elementary school in the small border town of Sderot, he said.
"Hitting a town like Sderot is like hitting Bono, Ohio," Rabbi Sokobin said.
"There's no one there that's fighting the Palestinians. It's not a military base."
If Hamas stopped firing rockets, "I'm convinced the Israeli air force would cease 20 second later," he said.
A number of people at the downtown protest criticized U.S. news coverage of the fighting, claiming that reporting has been slanted in favor of Israel.
Mr. Doumani cited foreign media reports of the Israeli military leveling two mosques and much of a Gaza university.
"If the American people could see the footage that is being shown by other media, like [Arabic TV station] al-Jazeera, Americans would take a stand against these attacks. But Americans are not getting the whole story," he said.
Mostafa Hasabelnaby, 24, of Toledo braved the near-freezing temperatures in a T-shirt, with no jacket.
"I don't know many people that are pro-war," Mr. Hasabelnaby said. "But it's hard to even call it war because one side has jets and missiles and tanks while the other side has almost nothing."
Imam Ismail Azzouni, spiritual leader of the Masjid Saad in Sylvania, said the violence in Gaza has gotten the new year off to a sad start.
"We want peace. We are human beings. We can disagree with each other, but not by bombing civilians. Women, kids are being killed."
Haithan Elsamaloty, 44, of Holland said both the Palestinians and Israelis are to blame for the violence and called for both sides to establish a truce.
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