Scuffles broke out Tuesday outside the Israeli consulate in New York City as hundreds of people gathered to protest deadly attacks in the Gaza Strip.
Many demonstrators waved the Palestinian flag in support of ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Other protesters showed up to support Israel and the two groups ultimately clashed, trading chants, insults and some confrontations resulted in punches being thrown.
"I just want peace I don’t want there to be violence anymore. I don’t want kids to die. Moms to die, families to die, lose their homes," said one Free Palestine protester, Naz.
Confrontations erupted last weekend at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism. Over four days, Israeli police fired tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinians in the compound who hurled stones and chairs at the forces. On Monday evening, Hamas began firing rockets from Gaza. From there on, the escalation was rapid. At least 43 people were killed in Gaza, including several children.
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The violence in recent days is the heaviest fighting in the region since 2014.
Another protester, Danny Yaguda, said he also wants peace, fearing for his family and friends in Israel.
"My cousins are living in bomb shelters right now because of terrorist attacks," Yaguda told NBC New York. "We’re just peacefully trying to state our opinion as Jewish men we have to protect elders, do whatever we can to stop violence and there was a lot of violence."
As he speaks, he's surrounded by small, but steady confrontations. The only thing each side seems to agree on is that peace doesn't feel possible, not in this moment.
"If there’s a two-state party that can happen...but it’s not gonna happen because right now we’re being oppressed," Naz said.
The U.S. is calling for calm but the White House is being criticized for not doing more to mediate the conflict. Other diplomats sought to intervene, with Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations working to deliver a cease-fire. All three serve as mediators between Israel and Hamas.
The U.N. Security Council planned to hold its second closed emergency meeting in three days Wednesday on the escalating violence, an indication of growing international concern. Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said the U.N.’s most powerful body did not issue a statement because of U.S. concerns that it could escalate tensions.
"At this point, the two-state solution is off the table. I want them gone," Yaguda said.
The Israeli consulate sent staff members home in advance of the protest on Tuesday. There were far more Palestine supporters who had organized the large gathering.
Police say arrests were made but it's unclear how many people were taken into custody.