(Reuters) — Thousands of people took to the streets of New York City on Friday evening to protest Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip and demand an end to the violence that has already killed nearly 850 Palestinians.
Police scrambled to corral the demonstrators, which officers estimated numbered between 2,000 and 3,000, as they flooded into the busy streets around Times Square.
Waving Palestinian flags and signs condemning Israel for the offensive, many called for an end to U.S. aid to the country.
“We’re trying to break the siege and end the killing in Palestine. We just want them to live like human beings,” said Ramsey Jamal, 37, a Palestinian-American from Montgomery, New York.
On his shoulders sat his 8-year-old son, Moses, who carried a placard reading: “Israel I’m just a kid. Please don’t kill me,” alongside marks resembling a child’s bloody handprints.
Israel began its offensive earlier this month, citing a surge in rocket attacks launched from Hamas militants in Gaza.
The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip on Friday climbed to 844, most of them civilians. Thirty-five Israeli soldiers and three civilians have also died.
On Friday, both sides agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire set to begin on Saturday morning.
In New York City, the crowd marched through the bustling evening streets of Midtown Manhattan chanting “Free, free Palestine!” and “1,2,3,4, stop the killing, stop the war!”
It was unclear who organized the protest, which drew demonstrators to the city from miles away.
Raya Karzoun, a 21-year-old Palestinian-American nursing student, traveled from Milford, Connecticut, to join in.
She said her parents fled the Gaza Strip decades ago after similar Israeli attacks, and that she was heartbroken when she heard of the most recent offensive.
“We’re protesting to free Gaza,” Karzoun said, wearing a Palestinian flag like a shawl. “Even though I don’t live in that country, the country lives in me.”