Israel-Hamas conflict: Pro-Palestinian, pro-Israeli gatherings in Auckland call for ceasefire, release of hostages

Several thousand pro-Palestinian supporters marched across parts of New Zealand on Sunday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israeli supporters gathered for a vigil on Auckland's St Heliers Beach demanding Hamas release approximately 240 Israeli hostages. 

Pro-Palestinian rally 

The pro-Palestinian rally in Auckland's CBD started in Aotea Square with speeches, a minute's silence and the haka.

"Ceasefire now!" was repeatedly chanted while people clapped loudly in rhythm.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and MP Ricardo Menéndez March were seen standing in the crowd side-by-side.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman also addressed the crowd.

"New Zealand has always stood as a principled, independent voice on the world stage and right now we are falling way short of that," Ghahraman said.

"As someone who has lived as a child in a Middle Eastern war, as a child shaking and having to run down to shelter, I remember most of all from our war, the little kids my own age who got shellshock.

"Every single one of them had birthdays and deserved to have many more to come," she stressed.

"We are talking about people just like us".

Several thousand pro-Palestinian supporters gathered in Auckland's CBD on Sunday.
Several thousand pro-Palestinian supporters gathered in Auckland's CBD on Sunday. Photo credit: Newshub

The crowd then marched down Queen St to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade offices.

A large number of police officers were in attendance patrolling around the rally.

Some protesters were carrying a makeshift coffin above their heads. Many were holding placards and posters condemning the bombing in Gaza.

It comes as Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa wrote to outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon on Sunday morning, calling for New Zealand to join France and other countries in demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

French President Emmanual Macron told British media he had called on Israel to stop bombing Gaza and killing civilians.

"These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop," he said, according to the BBC.

His call for a ceasefire was backed by the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa.

"Many countries have called for a ceasefire. France is the latest and we must join this growing chorus," spokesperson John Minto said in a statement.

"How much longer will this slaughter of innocents continue before our political leaders speak out? It is unconscionable that we could remain silent."

Pro-Israel vigil  

A vigil was also held on Sunday at Auckland's St Heliers Beach, which saw hundreds of placards planted into the sand with the faces, names and ages of Israeli hostages.

Shalom New Zealand advocate Karin Horen attended the vigil and told Newshub the vigil was held to "stand in solidarity with the victims who have been kidnapped into Gaza on the 7 October by Hamas".

"We are standing in solidarity with family and loved ones waiting to hold their hands when they come back home," she said.

Shalom New Zealand advocate Karin Horen is calling for the Israeli hostages to be released.
Shalom New Zealand advocate Karin Horen is calling for the Israeli hostages to be released. Photo credit: Newshub

She also expressed sadness for all innocent civilians killed on both sides.

"From the bottom of my heart, I feel devasted for the innocent civilians in Gaza."

The organiser of the vigil, Rob Berg from the Jewish National Fund, said he chose to hold the vigil as he believes "it's easy for the hostages to be forgotten".

"We're just asking those hostages to be brought back to Israel and be released," he said.

Talia Cohen-Wolf, who grew up in an Israeli kibbutz where people were taken hostage, also expressed her sadness at the loss of innocent lives.

"It's just unimaginable even to try and describe the atrocities," she cried, wiping away her tears.

She said the families that survived have got "absolutely nothing" other than "the clothes on their back".

"There is no information, no proof of life, or conditions of the babies and children," she added.