Thousands of people have marched in New York City to support Palestinians and raise awareness about Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip.
Protests were seen across multiple neighbourhoods in the sprawling United States city on Friday, with demonstrators chanting “Free Palestine” and calling for an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
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Several blocks of Times Square were packed with mostly youthful but also older protesters, some of whom carried Palestinian flags or wore keffiyehs, with leaders on megaphones.
Protesters were heard chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” which uses a slogan that some see as calling for equality between Palestinians and Israelis, but Jewish organisations have condemned as anti-Semitic.
Videos showed dozens of people demonstrating in front of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer’s home in Brooklyn on Friday night to demand a ceasefire as he was preparing to travel to Israel with a delegation of lawmakers.
New York City also saw counterprotests on Friday, with pro-Israeli demonstrators taking to the streets and at times getting into verbal arguments with supporters of the Palestinians.
The city had gone on a state of alert in preparation for the protests and police presence and patrols were ramped up in what some have called an International Day of Action for Palestine.
The protests ended up being largely peaceful, but several dozen people were reportedly arrested throughout the day, and in front of Schumer’s home, as police officers tried to break up crowds.
New York, which is home to the largest Jewish community in the world outside Israel, has previously seen a series of demonstrations in support of the Palestinian cause as well as gatherings in solidarity with Israelis who have been killed by Hamas.
“I feel it’s my duty, not just as a Muslim, but also as a human being, to see everyone show up because of the crimes that the Israel occupation has caused upon the Palestinian people,” Laibah Faiaz, a 21-year-old protester in New York, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
“No one is acknowledging the scale of destruction that they’ve unleashed upon these innocent people,” she added.
Anas Amireh, a 51-year-old businessman and son of Palestinian immigrants, said that responding to the killings of innocents in Israel with “another genocide … in the Gaza Strip is a criminal war and it is wrong”.
Hamas, the political and armed Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip, launched its largest-ever surprise assault on Israel last Friday that killed at least 1,300 Israelis and foreign nationals.
Israel has since been heavily pounding the enclave of Gaza and has killed at least 1,900 Palestinians, including many women and children.
The United Nations described an Israeli order for 1.1 million Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza as “impossible” and has called for a way to provide assistance to the many besieged Palestinians there who are now left without power, water or internet.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies