Coordinated pro-Palestinian protests snarl traffic across US cities

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Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Iran attack and the Israel-Hamas war for Monday, April 15. For the latest news, view our story for Tuesday, April 16.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators demanding a cease-fire in Gaza blocked bridge traffic in San Francisco and New York and prompted some air travelers in Chicago to ditch their rides and reach the airport on foot as coordinated protests caused disruptions across several cities in the U.S. and internationally Monday

The organizing A15 Action group said on its website that the "the global economy is complicit in genocide and together we will coordinate to disrupt and blockade economic logistical hubs and the flow of capital.''

That meant shutting down the Golden Gate Bridge during the morning commute, snarling traffic into and out of San Francisco for hours. A group carrying a banner that read “Stop the world for Gaza” was eventually cleared off. Across the bay in Oakland, protesters forced the closure of two sections of Interstate 880, using weighted barrels to block the road.

In New York, hundreds of demonstrators halted afternoon traffic by clogging the Brooklyn Bridge, bringing on a large police response. And in Chicago, the highway that goes into O'Hare Airport was jammed by a protest, leading several passengers to walk to the terminal with their luggage.

“I support the idea that people should express their First Amendment rights and protest if they would like to,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “I do not think that they should be disruptive of the traffic of people trying to get from one place to another.''

Road blockages from protests were also reported in Philadelphia, San Antonio, Texas, and Eugene, Oregon − where 52 demonstrators were arrested − in addition to Ottawa, Canada.

Protesters in Oregon are arrested as they block the southbound lane of Interstate 5 between Eugene and Springfield on Monday, April 15, 2024.
Protesters in Oregon are arrested as they block the southbound lane of Interstate 5 between Eugene and Springfield on Monday, April 15, 2024.

New allies: Israel's critics became allies over Iran attack. But they're still pushing a Gaza cease-fire


Oil prices fell Monday, and analysts credited the limited damage from Iran's strike.

∎ Humanitarian aid getting into the Gaza Strip has increased by a large amount in the last few days, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

∎ The U.S. Central Command said Monday that its forces destroyed four unmanned aerial vehicles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen as an act of self-defense. Since the Israel-Hamas war, Iran-linked Houthi rebels have conducted dozens of missile and drone attacks on ships traveling in the Red Sea commercial waterway, a key trade route.

∎ British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Monday that the G7 industrialized nations are working on a package of coordinated measures against Iran. “I spoke to my fellow G7 leaders,'' he said. "We are united in our condemnation of this attack.”

What's next? Israel's long-simmering conflict with Iran moves out of the shadows

Israel weighs Iran response amid global concerns

Israel's War Cabinet met Monday as the nation weighs a response to Iran's missile and drone blitz amid global concerns that the Middle East could be careening toward a wider war.

Cabinet members huddled Sunday and were united in backing some form of retaliation for the Saturday strike − the first time Iran targeted Israel directly from its own territory − but were divided on the timing and scale of the next steps.

No decision has been announced, but speaking at the Nevatim air force base in southern Israel, military Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said Monday: “This launch of so many missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs (drones) into the territory of the state of Israeli territory will be met with a response.”

All eyes were on Israel as world leaders urged restraint. "We’re on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. "We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear.”

President Joe Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will defend its longtime ally but would not be part of any response to Saturday's attack.

Iran launched the assault over a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian military officers. A U.S.-led coalition of warplanes and naval assets helped intercept the more than 300 missiles and drones fired Saturday, and damage was limited in Israel.

Biden says US 'committed to Israel's security'

Biden said Monday that the U.S. is “committed to Israel’s security” following Iran’s attack on Israel over the weekend, as he reaffirmed his support for a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas.

“We're committed to a cease-fire that will bring the hostages home and prevent the conflict from spreading beyond where it already has,” Biden said.

Biden made the comments ahead of a bilateral meeting at the White House with Iraq Prime Minister Mohammed Shyaa Al-Sudani. "We're also committed to the security of our personnel and partners in the region, including Iraq," Biden said.

“Together with our partners, we defeated that attack,” Biden said of the 300 missiles and drones targeting Israel that a  U.S.-led coalition of warplanes and naval assets helped intercept.

At the start of his meeting with Biden, Sudani joined the chorus of international voices urging restraint from Israel. “We encourage all the efforts of stopping the expansion of the area of conflict, especially the latest development,” Sudani said.

− Joey Garrison

Thwarted attack not foretold but an 'embarrassing failure' for Iran

At a White House news conference Monday, Kirby pushed back on reports the Iranian attacks were meant to fail and that Iran warned about them ahead of time so they would be thwarted. Kirby called the claims "categorically false'' and "malarkey,'' underscoring that Israeli defenses along with U.S. help fended off the assault.

"It was an embarrassing failure'' for Iran, Kirby said.

At the same time, he urged the House of Representatives to "urgently" vote on a bipartisan national security bill that has already passed the Senate, which also includes funding for Ukraine. Speaker Mike Johnson said Monday the House will consider the aid packages separately this week.

Despite the U.S. intervention against the Iranian attack Saturday, Kirby said a response to it is "an Israeli decision to make,'' Kirby said. "We're going to leave it squarely with them. We're not involved in their decision-making process about a potential response.''

− Francesca Chambers

When will Israel respond to Iran's attack?

Two top Israeli officials have stressed that while retaliation may not be imminent, a response would be carefully orchestrated − and Iran would face the consequences.

“We will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” Minister Benny Gantz said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel would look to create a strategic alliance “against this grave threat by Iran.”

Demonstrators wave Iran's flag and Palestinian flags as they gather at Palestine Square in Tehran on April 14, 2024.
Demonstrators wave Iran's flag and Palestinian flags as they gather at Palestine Square in Tehran on April 14, 2024.

World leaders urge Israel to use restraint

Israel's allies in Europe pressed the nation Monday to move cautiously.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israel to make isolating Iran the goal. "We will do all we can to avoid things flaring up," he said.

"Israel has won defensively thanks to its strong air defense and the efforts of the U.S., Britain and Arabic states,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said. “Now we must prevent an escalation in the region.”

Russia, which has refrained from criticizing its ally Iran, weighed in as well. “We are extremely concerned about the escalation of tensions in the region,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We call on all countries in the region to exercise restraint.”

Why did Iran strike Israel?

Iran's missile and drone barrage was retaliation for Israel's suspected strike on Iran's embassy in Damascus, which killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers, including two top commanders, on April 1.

But the strike followed months of clashes between Israel and Iran’s regional allies and was triggered by the war in Gaza, which has spread to fronts with Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

The Israel-Hamas war began Oct. 7, when Hamas militants brutally attacked Israeli border communities, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages. A subsequent bombardment of Gaza by Israel has left over 33,000 Palestinians dead and triggered a humanitarian crisis in the gutted enclave.

Strike may have delayed Rafah invasion

Israel's long-anticipated ground invasion of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip may be on hold because of the Iran strike, CNN and Israeli media reported. Netanyahu said last week that he had set a date for the invasion, which Israel sees as key to crushing Hamas, but he did not disclose the timing or details.

"This victory requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there. It will happen − there is a date," Netanyahu said. Israel has been bombing Rafah for weeks, but Biden and other world leaders have urged Israel not to invade the city, fearing massive civilian death tolls because almost 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering there.

Contributing: Francesca Chambers, Tom Vanden Brook; Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel war updates: Pro-Palestine protests snarl traffic in US cities