Hundreds gather in downtown San Diego for rally supporting Israel

SAN DIEGO — Hundreds of people gathered at the San Diego County Administration Building Sunday afternoon for a rally in support of Israel as the war in Gaza enters its third week.

Dozens waved Israeli flags and banners that read “We stand with Israel” during the protest, organized by a coalition of several organizations. Others held flyers with the names of people who were reported missing or held hostage by Hamas after the initial Oct. 7 attack.

“We’re here to show our support for the hostages that Hamas took in their attack” said Bruce Levine, who attended the rally. “As time goes on, people’s memories get a little bit fuzzy and there’s been so much focus on Israel’s response that a lot of people have forgotten.”

In the wake of Hamas’ invasion, Israel imposed a complete siege on Gaza and launched thousands of retaliatory airstrikes on the densely-packed enclave.

By Oct. 22, Israeli attacks had widened to include targets Syria and the occupied West Bank, as the country’s military continues to amass troops and tanks for a ground offensive in Gaza.

As of 9 p.m. Sunday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said that at least 4,651 people had been killed in Gaza. The ministry added that 93 Palestinians were killed in violence and Israeli air raids in the occupied West Bank since Oct. 7.

Over 15,000 Palestinians have been wounded in the conflict in both territories. More than 1,200 others are still believed to be below the rubble, according to health officials.

More than 1,400 Israelis have died in the conflict, the vast majority being civilians that were killed in the initial Oct. 7 assault by Hamas. At least 200 others, including children, were captured by militants and taken into Gaza, according to the Israeli military.

On Friday, Hamas released two American hostages, a mother and a teenage daughter, abducted by Hamas — the first such release from those being held by the militant group in Gaza.

Escalations in the violent conflict have raised tensions worldwide, leaving Jewish and Muslim communities feeling vulnerable. Antiemetic and anti-Muslim crimes have seen an upsurge in reports of offenses, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Attendants at Sunday’s rally expressed concern about the possibility of increases in targeted violence at home, but hoped the event would show others that they are not alone.

“It makes my heart feel really good for people to come together for my community to come together,” said demonstrator Barrett Holman Leak, who was surprised by the turnout. “I see it is not only are Jews here, but there are people from other, faith communities and other groups who have come to stand with us to say you are not alone we are not alone.”

The pro-Israel rally was the second demonstration held over the weekend in San Diego related to the conflict.

On Saturday, nearly a thousand pro-Palestinian activists marched through downtown to call for a ceasefire as conditions continue to worsen for civilians in Gaza amid the barrage of Israeli airstrikes, echoing calls from other global leaders like United Nations chief António Guterres.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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