Thousands of people gathered Sunday in New York City’s Times Square to express support for Israel in its ongoing military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and to call for peace in the region.
About 4,000 people, mostly from the local Jewish community, took part in the solidarity protest, chanting pro-Israel slogans and waving Israeli flags, CBS News reported.
“As Israel continues its ground campaign of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, it is clearer now than ever that there is no room for moral equivalency in this conflict,” Eve Stieglitz, one of the rally’s organizers, said, according to the JP Updates website.
“There is no symmetry between a murderous terrorist organization and a moral and democratic state that is under attack by missiles and tunnels,” she added.
“We mourn casualties on all sides, but the blame for this cycle of violence must be clearly placed on Hamas. If Hamas cared more about their people than their rockets, there would be peace in Israel today.”
A number of public figures took part in the solidarity event, including Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Judy Nir Mozes-Shalom, the wife of Israeli Minister Silvan Shalom.
Meanwhile, several blocks away, dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators voiced their opposition to the IDF’s offensive in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
“They say they want peace — that’s what I’ve been hearing from their chants,” Fatin Jarara, a member of the Palestine Rights to Return Coalition, told CBS News. “But I don’t think it’s peaceful to be killing people the way they’ve been doing.”
The New York rally came only hours after 13 IDF soldiers were killed when they encountered fierce Hamas fighting in the dense Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya, in the northern part of the Strip. Gaza’s Health Ministry reported that 60 Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured in the battle as well. Military sources later said the fighting in Shejaiya would likely continue for several more days.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is set to arrive Monday in Cairo, is said to be weighing the possibility of announcing on Tuesday a long-term humanitarian ceasefire, in the presence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry, Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel.
The UN Security Council had expressed “serious concern” about Gaza’s rising civilian death toll and demanded an immediate end to the fighting following an emergency session.
Eighteen Israeli soldiers, as well as two Israeli civilians, have been killed and 92 were reported injured since the IDF began its operation in the Gaza Strip two weeks ago. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, at least 509 people were killed and 3,150 more were injured in the Strip during the same time. The United Nation’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, reported that at least 83,000 Gazans are taking refuge in the organization’s schools.