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Protesters On Both Sides Call For Peace As Tensions Heat Up In Israel

Israel Protest

Protesters on both sides are calling for peace as the threat of violence escalates in Israel. (Credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Sabbath was far from a day of rest in Israel this Saturday, as the military was poised for a ground offensive in Gaza, and protests by supporters of Israel and Palestine pressed on in New York.

As CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported, the NYPD has also placed extra security outside the Israeli Consulate, 800 Second Ave. Police officers were stationed on every corner near the consulate, and in front of almost every synagogue across the city, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Friday.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb that he has assigned additional personnel to Jewish houses of worship and the Israeli Consulate. That includes sending the NYPD’s heavily-armed Hercules teams.

Also, Kelly said: “We have critical response vehicles that we use to do this sort of additional security, another layer of security that we put in place and we do that on the regular work day but obviously we focus on certain locations when there’s information that indicates there may be cause for concern.”

But Kelly stressed there is no specific threat.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports

This came as both Israel and Palestinian militants reached the brink of firing rockets at each other.

At the consulate, protesters have been united in their overwhelming call for peace. But as Israel positioned itself for a possible Gaza invasion, it was looking like war rather than peace was on the horizon.

Israeli troops amassed near the Gaza border, and all signs indicated that Israel could be getting ready to stage a massive ground invasion in Gaza in the coming days.

Many Jews say the Israeli government is doing the only thing it can do in trying to stop the rocket attacks from Gaza.

“I feel Israel has the right to protect itself. They shot 10,000 rockets in the past eight years into Israel and Israel has the right to defend itself like any other country,” Nathan Aharon of Woodmere told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

Palestinians have a far different view.

“It’s very bad, very bad. They should give the land back to the Palestinians. They are suffering. Just last night I saw a burned baby – very, very bad,” said Nasser Ooni of Park Slope.

But whether you are in the Diamond District in Manhattan, where many Jews and Israelis have businesses, or on the streets of Bay Ridge, where Arab businessmen ply their trade, there are common worries, common concerns and common fears.

“There’s no reason why so many people are killing each other,” one person said.

On Friday, the Israeli cabinet authorized the draft of 75,000 reservists, according to local media reports. This came after the Gaza-based Hamas aimed a rocket at the Israeli capital on Jerusalem – an unprecedented attack on an area claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.

“Tonight, there was a siren in Jerusalem, and when I spoke to my mother and my sister, she was shaking all around, and she froze, and she couldn’t go to the shelter,” said pro-Israel protester Sharon Alon.

On Friday, Israel also expanded a fierce air assault, including 180 overnight air strikes targeting government and police compounds and underground tunnels.

“I’m keeping in touch with all the family and friends, and it’s very, very devastating, and these people can’t sleep,” said Raja Abdulhaq of Muslims for Palestine. “They can’t have a regular life.”

The violence escalated Wednesday, when Israel assassinated the military chief of Hamas. The attack came after days of rocket attacks launched by militants into Israel.

More than 20 Palestinians have been killed in the dense area.

Neighboring Egypt has supported Palestinian efforts. There is also concern that Iran is supplying Hamas with advanced weaponry.

But as the United States voices its support for Israel, protesters in New York have maintained that the answer is not war, but peace.

“It’s terrible. We want peace and that’s it,” added Avi Hauptman of Hillcrest, Queens. “A woman died yesterday, a mother of three. It’s very sad, for no reason for that to happen — not on our side, not on their side.”

“This can’t go on. Israel has to sit down on the same table with Arabs and get it resolved,” said Marwar Kasi of Bay Ridge.

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