Minnesota protesters, officials call for cease-fire in Gaza

Man holds red, black white and green flag in front of crowd
A man holds a Palestinian flag as protesters gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol on Saturday to demand a cease-fire in Palestine and Israel.
Ellie Roth | MPR News

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on Saturday to demand a cease-fire in Palestine and Israel.

Protesters said they are urging the U.S. to take all necessary steps to stop the violence in the region. Israel cut off water, electricity and other aid from Gaza after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel two weeks ago.

For many Minnesotans, the crisis in the Middle East hits close to home. Maple Grove residents Tariq and Manal Harmouda said close to three dozen of their relatives were killed in western Gaza on Thursday night.

Manal’s mother and one of her nephews were the only survivors. The family ran the oldest and largest eye clinic in Gaza and four family members that were killed were doctors.

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Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the air strike most likely happened while the family was sleeping. Like many other families in Gaza, they all lived in the same building. Hussein said the Harmoudas last heard from their family members in Gaza on Wednesday.

“Almost all Palestinians are hoping they don’t get the call. The call that a member of their family has been killed,” Hussein said. “We’re seeing almost everyone be impacted one way or the other.”

flags and signs
Protesters hold signs during a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol on Saturday Oct. 21, 2023. The rally called for an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Ellie Roth | MPR News

Hussein said stories like the Harmoudas’ are catalysts for demanding a cease-fire in the region.

“Our nation right now has to speak up,” he said. “A cease-fire is not the end of the conflict, it just stops the murder of innocent people.”

Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Ilhan Omar, both of Minnesota, joined the call for a cease-fire this week.

Omar is a co-sponsor of a House resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict.

“Those of us who have lived through war don’t want to see war continue,” Omar said during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Friday. “I am never going to stop saying that Palestinians deserve freedom.”

But the resolution has faced opposition from many lawmakers, including Democrats, who cite the need for the threat of Hamas to be eliminated.