NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — More than two dozen New York elected officials rallied at City Hall on Monday in support of Israel as tensions continue to escalate in the Middle East.
Rockets rained down on Hamas targets throughout the night as the growing conflict between Israel and Palestine intensified.
The Israeli military said it has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes in the last seven days, most recently hitting a weapons storage facility.
More than 170 Palestinians have been killed — many of them civilians. Israel has been spared the same casualties.
Military officials said a sophisticated missile defense system has intercepted nearly 1,000 rockets fired by Hamas.
“When we hear that Hamas missiles are not killing people — it isn’t because they’re not deadly! It’s because the United States and Israel developed a system called ‘Iron Dome,’ and its working!” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said.
Across the nation, including in New York City, activists on both sides are taking action.
“We will not apologize for our right to defend ourselves,” said the consul general of Israel in New York, Ido Aharoni.
The rally on the steps of City Hall attracted members of Congress, as well as state and local leaders. The politicians said that Israel has a right to defend itself in its current conflict with Gaza militants.
“We mourn for the loss of life in Gaza for sure. and we lay that blame squarely on Hamas, who as it has been pointed out is engaged in the reprehensible practice of placing its bomb factories and missile stockpiles and command centers inside mosques and clinics and schools,” NYC Councilman Mark Levine said.
“At all hours of the day and of the night they are firing rockets, firing mortars for one single purpose and that is to kill civilians,” said Michael Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
“Support for Israel in the U.S. Congress is strong and it’s bipartisan and that’s the way it should be,” Rep. Eliot Engel added.
Mayor Bill de Blasio did not attend the rally, but he has previously voiced his support for Israel.
Nearly 100 pro-Palestinian protesters staged a counter-demonstration outside the City Hall gates, denouncing U.S. support for Israel. They loudly chanted “They do not speak for us!” At times they drowned out the speakers.
Pro-Palestinian protesters surround City Hall gates, try to drown out officials at pro-Israel press conf inside pic.twitter.com/D0BxCRajCa
— Alex Silverman (@AlexSilverman) July 14, 2014
“When Palestinians in the West Bank have access to the amount of water that the Jewish settlers and illegal settlements have then there will be peace,” Pam Sporin, a Jewish New Yorker, told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.
“There’s been a brutal siege. They’re being attacked by air, by sea, no food, no medicine, people are dying. That’s what we’re here to demand. We’re not here in support of Hamas or anybody. We’re here in support of the Palestinian people,” North Bergen, N.J. resident Keith Elabed said.
“These people are desperate now because of the way they’re being treated by the overwhelming force of the Israeli government backed by our tax dollars,” Chelsea resident Margaret Collins added.
The conflict has shown no signs of easing up and Israel’s cabinet said it’s still considering a full ground invasion.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to use diplomatic and military means to settle the conflict.
The new outbreak of violence followed the killings of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and the killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack.
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