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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Bageshri Savyasachi

'We are not going to stop': Palestinian support gathers momentum in capital

Teenager Aliria Haley-Kenny has no ties to Gaza but is among hundreds of people at Garema Place calling for a ceasefire week after week.

She has been friends with Sarah Hamdan, a student with Palestinian heritage, since they were both in Year 7. Haley-Kenny applauded her classmate for helping her become aware of the Palestinian cause. The pair attend weekly protests together, carrying flags and raising slogans.

"I'm Papua New Guinean," the 16-year-old said. "It's about standing together as a whole. Oppression is oppression ... no matter the country.

"Sarah's been educating me about Palestine and we've been talking about the cause even before [October 7]."

Children as young as five years old and people from various backgrounds, wrapped in traditional keffiyehs, were in the crowd on Saturday, January 13.

Abdal Hijazi, a born and raised Canberran, said relatives from his and his wife's side of the family had been killed in villages in the West Bank.

He said while residents in the West Bank were not in immediate danger like the people of Gaza, it was still a great source of "stress and anxiety" for him.

Sarah Hamdam and Aliria Haley-Kenny, both 16, have been attending protests every week. Picture by Keegan Carroll

"This is very touching. It's heartwarming to know that local Canberrans support our struggle," Mr Hijazi said. "The longer [protests] goes on the wider community is getting educated on what's actually happening."

One of the protest organisers, Awn Nuwwar, said it was week 14 of rallying for a ceasefire.

He said he had seen more people on Saturday's rally as compared to previous weeks because it was the "Global Day of Action for Gaza".

"We are not going to stop until we see results, until we see a free and liberated Palestine," Mr Nuwwar said.

Leader of the ACT Greens Shane Rattenbury was also at the protest to show his support.

"This is such an important issue," Mr Rattenbury said.

"A lot of people here feel really disempowered by what's happening overseas and so being part of a community movement demands a different approach from the Australian government."

Protesters rallied at Canberra's Garema Place for the "Global Day of Action for Gaza". Picture by Keegan Carroll

He was accompanied by fellow Greens member of the Legislative Assembly, Emma Davidson.

"I'm here today because I want a ceasefire and I want peace, and I want an end to the genocide of Palestinian people," Ms Davidson said.

Israel rejected accusations of genocide brought forward by South Africa in the International Court of Justice, on January 12.

Israel also asked the world court, in the Netherlands, to refuse South Africa's demand for an end to the military campaign in Gaza.

The crowd observed a moment of silence. Picture by Keegan Carroll

Saturday marked 98 days since Hamas' attacks on Israel, following which the Israeli government's deadly bombing of Gaza began.

Israel's actions in Gaza have displaced most of its 2.3 million residents, devastated infrastructure, and resulted in shortages of food, water and medicine.

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