Students at schools across Fairfax County have or are planning to walk out this week in a show of solidarity with Palestinians suffering in the latest war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that governs the Gaza Strip.
Dubbed a “Humanitarian Walkout Week,” the demonstrations began last Friday (Oct. 20) at Annandale High School and continued on Monday (Oct. 23) at Justice High School in Lake Barcroft. Organizers at Oakton High School reported that at least 200 students participated in their walkout yesterday (Tuesday).
Additional walkouts are expected at Edison and Mount Vernon high schools today, Woodson and Falls Church high schools tomorrow (Thursday), and McLean and Lake Braddock high schools on Friday (Oct. 27).
The walkouts are being organized by each school’s Muslim Student Association, though not all participants are members of those clubs.
In a press release, the students said they want an end to the bombing that Israel has unleashed on Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, which killed an estimated 1,400 people and took over 200 people hostage, including the relatives of a Fairfax County native.
They also called for an end to Israel’s 16-year blockade of Gaza and an end to its occupation of the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.
“We’ve been fighting with this for decades, and we’re scared into silence every time, but this time, we’re not going to be silent,” a student at the Justice High School rally said. “We will continue to speak up against the genocide and the ethnic cleansing that’s currently happening in Palestine. We will not stop until Palestine is free.”
Another student encouraged other attendees to “come together to come together to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Palestine.”
“It is about recognizing that every life is precious and that peace is not a dream, but an achievable reality,” she said.
Supported by funding and supplies from the U.S., the Israeli military has unleashed hundreds of airstrikes on Gaza since the Oct. 7 attack. More than 5,000 people have been killed, the Gaza Ministry of Health has said, and over 1.4 million people have fled their homes, according to news reports.
The U.S. government has expressed continued support for Israel, its longtime ally, and resisted calls for it to back a ceasefire, including from the United Nations, some Congressional representatives and staffers, and Jewish activists.
U.S. officials have been involved in Israel’s hostage negotiations with Hamas, and in a visit to Tel Aviv last week, President Joe Biden urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, which was cut off from food, water, electricity, medical supplies and other necessities. A handful of trucks with aid were permitted this past weekend for the first time since Israel’s siege began, though the U.N. agency working with Palestinian refugees says the situation remains dire, particularly with fuel running out.
A poll released last week found that a majority of U.S. voters agree the government should call for a ceasefire and help deescalate the violence in Gaza.
“The red stripes of the American flag are painted in the blood of the countries we’ve stepped on to get to this point and we refuse to inherit a world where hate and injustice is fueled by greed,” Holly Raheb, a sophomore at McLean High School, said.
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