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Chicago Activists Gather To Protest Israel's Raid On Gaza Aid Flotilla

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More than 2,000 people - and a heavy police presence - crowded east Wacker Drive near the Consulate General of the Midwest to Israel for two hours Tuesday evening, protesting the attacks on the flotillas bringing aid to the Gaza Strip.

"[Chicago is] outrage[d], I think, as evidenced by this crowd," said Kevin Clark, Midwest Coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement, one of the organizations that helped plan the aid shipments.

One Chicagoan, Fatima Mohammadi, was part of the convoy. Mohammadi was onboard the Mavi Marmara - the ship that was attacked - and she was reported missing. She has since been found and is in Israeli custody awaiting deportation.

As various Chicago leaders addressed the crowd, protesters waved Palestinian flags, American flags and Turkish flags, as well as signs calling for an end to Israeli occupation.

"Not just Chicago, but...the U.S. as a whole needs to realize that this is an American issue and it affects every single American no matter where you live because it's our tax money that is paying for [Israel to occupy Gaza]," said Sarah El-Neweihi, 23, Western Springs.

Veterans for Peace member and Oak Park resident Ron Chew, 76, criticized Israel for raiding the aid ship.

"I think it's terrible. I find it very difficult to understand Israel, how they can be this island of hostility."

Farah Khan, a 26-year-old Lincolnwood resident, said she has been disappointed by President Obama's silence regarding the Sunday raid.

"I think it's an injustice...it's inhumane," Khan said. "It's not about religion, it's not about being Muslim or Jewish or Christian...it's about humanity. The fact that they're stopping aid to Gaza is horrible."

Naperville resident Tahera Ahmad agreed.

"Because there was almost a silence after last year's massacre [in Gaza], I'm hoping that this will allow the Obama administration to revisit this issue."

Orli Gil, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, defended Israel's actions and said the flotilla was more about making a political statement than providing humanitarian aid.

"Israel is in a state of war with Hamas and part of this armed conflict is [enforcing] a blockade," Gil said.

Though he is Jewish, Yuriy Reznik, 37, of Chicago's North Side, disagrees with Israel's actions.

"As a person with some moral sense, I feel that [it] is a part of my responsibility - as a Jew and as an American citizen - I have to do something about what's going on," Reznik said. "The blockading of Gaza, the collective punishment of civilians is completely illegal under international law."

During the rally, organizers announced a new aid ship was heading for Gaza--an Irish ship called the "Rachel Corrie," named after a 23-year old American girl who died while protesting in Gaza. PBS reports that the boat is somewhere between Malta and Greece, and could reach the waters along Gaza's coast within the next several days.

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