What you need to know
- The war between Israel and Hamas has claimed at least 4,000 lives, and is expected to escalate.
- Over 1 million Palestinians have fled their homes in a little over a week, as Israel prepares for an expected ground invasion of Gaza.
- President Biden and Philly-area leaders have largely stood behind Israel.
- Here’s why Hamas and Israel reached this moment now — and what comes next.
Roughly 5,000 people marched from City Hall to Independence Hall carrying Israeli flags, signs condemning Hamas, as well as signs calling for peace and calling attention to hostages.
On Oct. 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack on civilian and Israeli military targets from the Gaza Strip and took hostages on the Jewish Sabbath and the Simchat Torah holiday, a day after the 50th anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War.
Jacob Weiner shared his story of having to evacuate from Alexander Muss High School in Israel, remembering hearing sirens for the first time.
“The small group of students and our guide had to run and take shelter in a doorway as the Iron Dome intercepted rockets overhead,” Weiner said. “We sat in the shelter for 15 minutes listening to the explosions and seeing the flashes of rockets colliding. That moment was the beginning of a whirlwind four days that would bring to an end what was supposed to be a life changing three month study abroad program.”
As more sirens came and reports of the attacks emerged, Weiner called his parents along with everyone else, even ones who kept Shabbos, afraid of what would happen next. Weiner said they “chose not to let the terrorists win that day.”
“Even though we could not follow through with our original plans for Simchat Torah, instead of sitting around and sulking, we chose to celebrate and had our hakafot and Torah reading in the hotel bomb shelter,” Weiner said.
As thousands united in supporting the nation, speakers offered prayers for those engaged in combat, taken hostage, and for Israel’s “right to defend itself,” including Jewish Federation board chair Michael Markman.
“Israel will defeat Hamas and we, the city of Philadelphia, the Jewish community, our sisters and brothers of Faith and God stand united with Israel,” Markman said.
When speaking with WHYY News ahead of addressing attendees, Markman said the Jewish Federation would be interested in hosting events with other groups affected by the attacks.
“We feel for the people, the Palestinians, that are victims of Hamas as well,” Markman said. “They’re used as human shields and Hamas will murder their own people as quickly as they’ll murder Jewish people. So we feel for the people that have to live under the rule of Hamas.”
Hamas said it has more than 200 hostages, according to Reuters.
Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since the attacks started. The region has since been under siege by Israel, cutting off electricity and barring the entry of fuel, food, water, medicine, and more into the territory. U.N. Human Rights chief Volker Turk said the “sieges” were illegal under international law.
Last Thursday, more than 160 people gathered outside of WHYY’s studio at Independence Hall Thursday afternoon to protest the news coverage of Palestinian people in the escalated conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Roughly 2 million Palestinians live on the Gaza Strip. For more than 16 years, the area has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt that restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of the country.
According to the BBC, at least 30 Americans have been killed in the attacks. The Associated Press reports more than 4,000 people have died. Water has run out at U.N. shelters across Gaza and overwhelmed doctors struggled to care for patients they fear will die once generators run out of fuel.
Multiple Delaware Valley leaders voiced their support for Israel following the attack.
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