Israeli, Palestinian supporters stage rallies in Philadelphia [photos]

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As Israeli and Hamas forces continue to clash in the Middle East, dueling rallies faced off in Philadelphia Wednesday.

Hundreds Israel supporters, including Morey Smerling, turned out. He was holding up a sign, asking “What if terrorists  targeted your city with rockets all year long?”

“If you are in Israel right now, you never know when you would have these air raid sirens going off and you would have to take cover, within a minute or less,” Smerling said. “Some places you have 15 seconds, in other places you might have a minute and 10 seconds.”

Across the street, many dozens rallied in support of the Palestinians.

As “an American and as a Jew,” Jacob Bender, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he was there to protest the policies of the state of Israel in killing Palestinian civilians. He called for “an end to violence of all people and an end of the killing of Jewish children and Muslim children.” 

For the most part, demonstrators participating in the rallies stayed on opposite sides of the street.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops battled Hamas militants on Wednesday near a southern Gaza Strip town as the top U.S. diplomat reported some progress in efforts to end fighting that has so far killed more than 680 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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