NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A group of New Yorkers gathered to rally for Israel in Times Square Sunday afternoon, as the first major ground battle in two weeks between Israel and Hamas militants left dozens dead.
As 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis reported, over 1,000 Jewish New Yorkers chanted, “We are the Jews and we are not afraid,” as they gathered to stand with Israel at a rally at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue.
As CBS 2’s Matt Kozar reported, the violence has actually been happening a world away from Times Square, but it felt real for many there. Jeff Katz of the Lower East Side said he has family in Israel and, “of course I’m worried about them.”
Michael Collins is an Israeli living in New York City.
“My parents are in Tel Aviv. I talked to them last night, 3 o’clock in the morning, and a bomb; a missile came from Gaza close to their neighborhood in Tel Aviv,” Collins said. “So they woke up scared and called me.”
Ayelet Vardi served in the Israeli military for five years.
“The retaliation that started 14 days ago became something that is devastating for both sides, and we want to just end this,” Vardi said.
Vardi and others said the rally was not only intended to show solidarity with Israel, but also to call for peace. Both sides are weary of the killing.
But Vardi also emphasized that she believes Israel has a right to defend itself.
“I don’t understand how most of the world can say it’s not just for Israel to protect itself during these times,” she said.
Some in the crowd also carried Palestinian flags, although they were vastly outnumbered. Among them was Fatin Jarara of Brooklyn.
“They say they want peace — that’s what I’ve been hearing from their chants, but I don’t think it’s peaceful to be killing people the way they’ve been doing,” said Jarara of the Palestine Rights to Return Coalition.
Jarara said the Israeli bombing campaign is killing too many civilians.
“When they get that very dangerous, knock on the roof — the so-called warning — they have nowhere to go,” Jarara said. “Do they go to a hospital? Those have been bombarded. Do they go to a school? Those have been bombarded. Do they go on the beach? That’s been bombarded as well.”
The protest came as a ground battle in Gaza killed 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighborhood, which was reportedly used to launch rockets at Israel and now devastated by the fighting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the offensive would continue “as long as necessary” to end attacks from Gaza on Israeli civilians.
But Hamas seems defiant, international cease-fire efforts are stalled, and international criticism is becoming more vocal as the death toll among Palestinian civilians rises.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urgently called for a ceasefire, and may head to the region to broker it.
“Israel is responding to an intransigent Hamas that was offered a ceasefire and didn’t want to take it,” Kerry said.
Elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are supporting the Israeli military campaign.
“Israel has every right to act,” he said. “The world community has basically backed up its right to act,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called Israel’s latest incursion “atrocious,” and said it must do far more to protect civilians.
In Israel, public opinion will struggle to tolerate rising military losses in an open-ended campaign. Already, Sunday’s deaths marked the highest number of soldiers killed on a single day since Israel’s war in Lebanon in 2006.
The ferocious battle in Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighborhood came on the third day of Israel’s ground offensive, which had been preceded by a 10-day air campaign.
In all, at least 435 Palestinians were killed and more than 3,000 wounded in the past two weeks. The overall death toll on the Israeli side rose to 20, including 18 soldiers, along with dozens of wounded troops, during that period.
Hamas militants also claimed to have taken an Israeli soldier hostage.
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