Chicago protesters demand cease-fire as Israeli offensive intensifies in southern Gaza

As the Israeli military expands its offensive in southern Gaza, protesters in Chicago are continuing to make their voices heard, calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas War.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators met at Federal Plaza on Wednesday, where they expressed new outrage over the Israeli shelling and airstrikes in the border city of Rafah. The attack took the lives of at least 37 civilians, according to hospital officials and emergency workers.

"There are no safe places in Gaza; the only safe thing right now that needs to happen is Israel needs to get out," said USPCN-Chicago Co-Chair Husam Marajda.

Many of those killed had been displaced and were sheltering in tents.

"I cannot imagine being in a situation where my life and my children’s life is under threat, thinking that I was in an area that was safe," said Deanna Othman, a board member for the American Muslims for Palestine Chicago.

Othman said her in-laws live in the Gaza Strip.

"I was recently speaking with my sister-in-law who mentioned that her brother’s wife’s family was killed in Rafah, and one of them was a mother that was holding her newborn child," said Othman.

Organizers with the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine are condemning the attacks, describing them as "a new level of horror."

"I live by the ethos ‘no one is free until we’re all free,’" said Roy Mwale, who attended Wednesday’s protest.

The crowd at Federal Plaza grew larger as demonstrators took to the streets and marched through the Loop. 

"A big question people often ask is, ‘If you’re not a part of some marginalized group, why do you care so much?’ And I always look at it as in, if you put yourself in their shoes, would it not hurt you if other people who couldn’t identify with you couldn’t also show up for it?" said Mwale.

Organizers said they will not stop until a resolution is met and tell FOX 32 Chicago they plan to march on the Democratic National Convention (DNC) – with or without permits.

"This summer we’re going to continue to build momentum until the DNC, and then we will march on the DNC," said Marajda.

Along with a cease-fire, demonstrators are demanding the Biden administration to stop supplying weapons to Israel.

Protesters marched to 500 W. Madison St., where the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest is housed, before dispersing for the night.

On Thursday morning, a prayer for Rafah will be held at the Downtown Islamic Center, located at 231 S. State Street. Led by local Muslim leaders, the prayer is set to begin at 10:25 a.m.