Montreal police use tear gas to disperse clashing pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian protesters

Police deployed tear gas in downtown Montreal on Sunday after pro-Israel and pro-Palestine demonstrations were held just a few blocks apart, leading to clashes.

Altercations erupted after pro-Palestinian demonstrators arrived at pro-Israel rally

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators run from police following a demonstration in Montreal on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Police deployed tear gas in downtown Montreal on Sunday after pro-Israel and pro-Palestine demonstrations were held just a few blocks apart, leading to clashes.

Jewish organizations in Montreal say a group of pro-Palestine protesters attacked the pro-Israel demonstrators with rocks.

Several hundred people gathered in the early afternoon at Dorchester Square, waving Israeli flags and dancing to music.

They were met by about a dozen pro-Palestinian demonstrators, who launched a protest of their own, according to Radio-Canada. The two groups argued, and altercations ensued. 

Police intervened with tear gas to disperse the crowds, according to Radio-Canada. Montreal police declare demonstrations illegal when offences are committed or when there are acts of violence. Police did not say what sparked the clashes. 

Police were still on the scene at 8 p.m. ET, ensuring public order as a few small clusters of people remained in Dorchester Square. It was not immediately clear whether anyone was injured in the clashes or whether police had made arrests. 

The pro-Israel demonstration was meant to be peaceful, according to the organizers. Musicians were invited in the morning, participants sang and speeches were made in favour of peace in the Middle East. 

The pro-Israel demonstration drew hundreds of people to downtown Montreal on Sunday. (Radio-Canada)

Daniel Benlolo, clergy with the Congregation Beth Shalom in Ottawa, helped organize the pro-Israel event in Montreal. He said it was not a response to recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

"There are a lot of Palestinians and Muslims who are very moderate. We want to work together and build a better future," he said.

CIJA-Québec and the Federation CJA, two Jewish organizations, denounced what they say were attacks targeting the pro-Israel demonstrators.

"Shocking video and eyewitness accounts confirm that a group of anti-Israel protesters attacked pro-Israel demonstrators with rocks," said a joint statement by the groups.

Pro-Palestinian supporters cover their faces as a chemical irritant is deployed by Montreal police on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Before the clashes, some pro-Palestinian protesters gathered at Canada Place, a city square about 200 metres from where the pro-Israel rally was held.

It is not clear who organized the pro-Palestine rally, and no one in charge could be reached for comment.

"They're partying. We come to condemn firmly. There are men, women and children who die atrociously, unjustly, who are humiliated, tortured," Nazim Morsli, an attendee at Sunday's pro-Palestinian rally told Radio-Canada.

"You just have to be human to understand that what is happening in Palestine right now is unfair and unacceptable," Tamar Abou-Said, another attendee, told Radio-Canada.

Montreal mayor condemns violence at demonstration

Montreal police were providing few details about the clashes late Sunday evening. A spokesperson said a complete report on what transpired would be provided once the situation was under control.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said on Twitter that the city has a well-deserved reputation for having different communities living together in peace and security.

"Demonstrating is a right, but intolerance, violence and anti-Semitism have no place with us," said Plante. "Montreal is a city of peace."

On Saturday, several thousand people marched through downtown Montreal to the Israeli consulate in Westmount, protesting Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip as well as recent settlement activity.

Fighting between the Israeli military and the Gaza-based militant group Hamas continued on Sunday.

Militants in Gaza fired an early-morning barrage of rockets into Israel. Then Israeli airstrikes on Gaza flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people on, Palestinian medics said.

But despite the heavy death toll and international efforts to broker a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled the fourth war with Gaza's Hamas rulers would rage on.

In a televised address on Sunday evening, Netanyahu said the attacks were continuing at "full force" and will "take time."

With files from Radio-Canada and The Associated Press