Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow is calling for people in the city to reject hate and violence amid rising tensions over the Israel-Gaza war that have seen homes and businesses targeted with hate crimes.

“I am hearing people being very fearful, being targeted,” Chow told reporters at a news conference Friday.

She said she receives daily texts from Toronto police highlighting criminal activity in the city and she has seen a rising number of hate crimes of late.

“I'm calling on Torontonians to be the best of themselves,” Chow said.

Toronto has seen an explosion of antisemitic incidents over the past few weeks, with Jewish homes and businesses being targeted and vandalized – including an incident just today targeting Indigo CEO Heather Reisman at a store near Bay and Bloor streets. Toronto police said they have also seen a rise in Islamophobic incidents.

“What I'm seeing in these hate crimes is that people are being targeted. Businesses are being targeted because of who the owner is or the name of the restaurant,” Chow said. “As I recall, during SARS days and even during COVID, some of the Chinese restaurants were being targeted for no good reason. So when that happens, it’s just hateful.

“So I think it's important for me to say that in Toronto, there's no place for hate. There's no place for Islamophobia, no place for antisemitism. People should not be targeted. Businesses should not be targeted just because of their faith and religion or who they are or where they came from.”

A few kilometres west of the vandalized Indigo store, police are investigating a break-in at a Palestinian-owned pizza shop. While police say the incident was not hate-motivated, the owners tell CTV News Toronto it has left them unsettled.

“It’s extremely hard being a Palestinian person right now and it’s extremely hard being a Jewish person in the world right now. Intolerance is at levels I’ve never seen before,” Levant Pizza co-owner, Nader, who asked only to be identified by his first name, said in an interview.

Chow said in her statement that while global events have left people feeling “shaken” Toronto is known as a beacon of peace in a difficult world.

“Our diversity, our empathy and the harmony in which we live is unique in the world. It must be protected,” the statement read.

She acknowledged “our city isn't perfect” and that lately people are scared of being targeted for who they are or what they believe in.

“As your Mayor, let me be clear: any assault on the freedom of people practicing their faith or religion, is not welcome here. Threatening the safety of businesses is not welcome here. Violence, in all its forms, is not welcome here. Hate is not welcome here,” Chow’s statement read.

The statement also called for “the immediate and unconditional return of all hostages and a ceasefire.”

Since the surprise attack by Hamas on Oct.  7, Israel has pounded the Gaza strip with airstrikes and Hamas has continued to fire rockets.

Israel has said it will not agree to a cease-fire until all hostages have been released, while Hamas has vowed to carry out more attacks similar to the Oct. 7 massacre.

Chow stressed that she’s not a foreign affairs expert when pressed on whether all hostages should be released before a ceasefire.

“I’m a local mayor. I can tell you about housing,” she said.

But she said she is disturbed by the daily images of war she sees and that she has been an advocate for peace all her life.

“I just know that each night when I see more killings, and each morning when I see these hate crimes being committed, I felt that I'm compelled to say something to make a statement,” Chow said.

Chow declined to weigh in on the subject in person Tuesday when posed a question about rising tensions in the city over the Israel-Hamas war. Her office followed up with a statement the next day.

It urged the city’s residents “through all the pain and anger so many are feeling right now, to not lose sight of our common humanity. Our city is incredibly diverse. We must remain committed to a Toronto free from hate where everyone belongs and can live without fear.”

Asked Friday whether her comments are too late to make a difference, Chow said she doesn’t know, but that she felt compelled to speak out now about people in the city feeling targeted.

Her statement Friday comes a day after two Jewish schools in Montreal were shot at. Two Jewish buildings in that city were also firebombed earlier this week and a rowdy altercation at Concordia University left three people injured.

Chow also said she has been speaking with members of council who hold “completely opposing points of view” and has urged them to hear one another.

“I've been navigating, trying to bring them together so they get there and connect with each other,” Chow said. “It's not easy. I am a mayor for people of Toronto, and I represent everyone so I'm trying to mediate, trying to connect and just urging people to be kinder.

“And in these really hard, difficult times, we can get through it, we can stay hopeful. We can say that hate has no place in the city and that peace is what we are seeking.”

Large pro-Palestinian protests have been held downtown over the past several weekends. Chow said she hopes that there are no protests that interfere with Remembrance Day on Saturday.

Toronto police recently said that they are bolstering the Hate Crimes Unit with additional staff to deal with the uptick. They are encouraging people to report any incidents.

With files from CTV News Toronto's Beth Macdonell