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Charities seek emergency donations for medical supplies

Renewed violence in the Middle East has prompted Canadians to speak out on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Protests and counterprotests are taking place in several cities, as charities and other non-governmental groups struggle over how best to respond to deadly and escalating violence half a world away.

"People are caught in the crossfire because they were born in the wrong place," said Zaid Al-Rawni, a spokesman for Islamic Relief Canada. "We want to channel people's energies into doing something positive."

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The Burlington, Ont.-based charity, which is registered with the federal government, this weekend urged Canadians to make emergency cash donations to help b uy medical equipment for the wounded in Gaza.

The materials are needed because medical supplies have already reached critical levels in Gaza, Mr. Al-Rawni said.

"Right now, the concentration is on medicines and also financial aid," he said. "We're asking doctor and nurses if they want to volunteer their time."

He hopes the group will soon be sending the supplies and people into Gaza, even though he concedes the logistics will be "tricky" given how its border crossings have been effectively sealed.

In the past week, Israeli air strikes have been blamed for killing more than 60 Palestinians in Gaza, a strip of land governed by the militant Islamist faction, Hamas. Militants in Gaza are firing hundreds of rockets into Israel, and these projectiles have killed at least three Israelis since hostilities were renewed.

B'nai Brith Canada has started an emergency relief fund to help finance its pro-Israel advocacy.

In a statement this weekend, the group urged journalists to refer to Hamas as a "terrorist" group and not merely a "militant" group.

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"I know the term 'militant' is popular in the media, but a lot of people that contacted us feel it is inappropriate – and we do as well," said Sam Eskenasi, a spokesman.

"They are a recognized terrorist group in Canada."

He argues that Hamas militants are committing "a double war crime," – first by firing indiscriminately on Israeli civilians, and, second, by launching rockets from positions within schools, hospitals and homes.

"Nobody in Gaza wants a rocket fired from their house because they know it will automatically make their house a target," said Mr. Eskenasi.

The escalating Mideast violence has prompted several demonstrations over the past few days, including protests in Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

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