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Protesters decry showing of Hamas attack video in Alberta Legislature while MLAs dodge questions

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About 40 people, mostly MLAs, gathered on the fifth floor of the Alberta legislature Wednesday night to watch extremely graphic video of Hamas terrorists killing and kidnapping Israelis.

At the same time, about 70 people gathered in a plaza near the building to protest the screening of Bearing Witness and what they allege are "incendiary" motives behind the event.

"We're here to stand against the weaponization of Jewish grief," said Asher Kirchner with Independent Jewish Voices - Edmonton.

"That film is intended to trigger intense feelings of revulsion in order to justify the unjustifiable, namely, the Israeli aggression against civilians in Gaza."

A statement from the group said while they are praying for the dead, they fiercely oppose "Israel's genocidal campaign in Gaza."

The 47-minute compilation of CCTV, social media and first-person video from both Hamas terrorists and Israeli first responders was presented by the Consulate of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada.

It was "facilitated" by the office of Speaker Nathan Cooper, who offered a greeting to MLAs, staff and journalists before leaving the room. He said his "heart couldn't take" watching the video.

CTV News Edmonton sent multiple requests to Cooper's office asking for reasons why this was being shown, if there was a cost to taxpayers and whether his office was in conversation with the Palestinian community as well, but no response was received.

In a statement sent to CBC News, Cooper did not answer questions about the appropriateness of the event or the objectivity of the speaker's role.

Instead, he stated that similar showings have been held in 30 countries, including screenings for Canadian MPs and U.S. Senators.

Everyone gathered in Edmonton was required to check their phones with security guards posted at the door. Journalists were not permitted to ask questions at any point.

Outside of the legislature, both NDP MLAs Lorne Dach and Joe Ceci declined to stop and answer questions from CTV News Edmonton about why they chose to attend.

"I'm the caucus chair," Ceci shouted on his way into the building.

A party spokesperson later said Ceci and Dach were asked by constituents to attend and "were there to listen."

Earlier in the day, a reporter asked NDP MLA Janis Irwin how she felt about the controversial film being shown inside the legislature.

"I think I'll have the question directed to our leader, Rachel Notley," she said.

After the viewing, UCP MLA and advanced education minister Rajan Sawhney also declined to take questions from CTV News Edmonton.

But prior to the film being screened, UCP MLA and Mental Health and Addictions minister Dan Williams stopped to say although he wasn't able to stay and watch, he was glad it was being shown.

"It's important to show the truth of what were horrific, violent and atrocious terrorist acts so that people understand what that is. And that truth is something we shouldn't hide," he said.

"I think that the legislature is importantly the place of our provincial debate, our conversations we have. The most important issues should definitely be had at the legislature, I don't know anywhere more appropriate."

Prior to the screening, an official from the Israeli consulate thanked everyone for coming and said it was the best attended of all the showings held in Canada.

She said it was important for politicians and journalists to "bear witness," that the video shows that the Hamas attackers are "terrorists" and "not resistance fighters," and that they committed acts "worse than ISIS."

The video compilation also included Hamas terrorists celebrating their kills with people in the streets, proudly counting their victims and calling home to brag to their parents about what they had done.

The latest Israel-Hamas war began after Hamas militants killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel launched a retaliation campaign, including airstrikes and a ground offensive, which health officials in Gaza say has killed more than 12,700 people.

On Wednesday, Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day cease-fire -- a diplomatic breakthrough that will free dozens of hostages held by militants as well as Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, and bring a large influx of aid to the besieged territory.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Galen McDougall and The Associated Press

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