MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) – Jewish peace activists held a massive sit-in protest at Grand Central in Manhattan Friday evening to demand a ceasefire in the deadly Israel-Hamas conflict.
The organization Jewish Voice for Peace held the protest in response to United States lawmakers’ unwavering support for Israel while the country’s airstrikes have killed more than 7,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, amid its conflict with the Hamas militant group.
Thousands of demonstrators filled the Main Concourse and steps in Grand Central, waving Palestinian flags and shouting a number of chants including “Let Gaza Live.”
The protest caused disruptions for commuters as several entrances to Grand Central were closed, causing long lines of people both entering and leaving the station. Hundreds of protesters were taken into custody by police while staging the sit-in, sources said.
“It’s important to show that we can’t just let life go on as usual,” said Sumaya Awad, one of the demonstrators. “I think there are thousands here of those Americans saying, ‘Yes, we want a ceasefire,’ and we’re showing you that we want it. We’re showing you that we won’t stop because this is happening with our tax dollars.”
Israel launched its retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza after Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israelis in its attacks on Oct. 7.
“In the last two weeks, over 7,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis were killed. Every bomb dropped on Gaza threatens the lives of 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza and 200 Israeli hostages. The only way to save lives is through an immediate ceasefire,” Jewish Voice for Peace said in a news release.
The U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution Friday calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the first United Nations response to the war.
Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud, speaking on behalf of the U.N.’s 22-nation Arab group, which drafted the resolution, called for the afternoon vote before all 112 speakers get to the assembly’s rostrum, because of the urgency of taking action.
Oman, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, condemned Israel’s “siege” of Gaza, starvation of its population and collective punishment of Palestinians.
In addition to calling for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities,” the resolution demands that all parties immediately comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law requiring protection of civilians and the schools, hospitals and other infrastructure critical for their survival.
The resolution also demands that essential supplies be allowed into the Gaza Strip and humanitarian workers have sustained access. And it calls on Israel to rescind its order for Gazans to evacuate the north and move to the south and “firmly rejects any attempts at the forced transfer of the Palestinian civilian population.”
During a U.N. General Assembly emergency session on Thursday, speaker after speaker backed the Arab group’s original draft resolution calling for the ceasefire, except for Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan who told the assembly, “A ceasefire means giving Hamas time to rearm itself, so they can massacre us again.”
But the calls for a ceasefire, the protection of Palestinian civilians facing constant Israeli bombardments in Gaza and the delivery of desperately needed food, water, medicine and fuel were passionate and intense.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, said 70% of those killed in Gaza were children and women. “If you do not stop it for all those who were killed, stop it for all those whose lives we can still save,” Mansour said.
Finn Hoogensen is a digital journalist who has covered local news for more than five years. He has been with PIX11 News since 2022. See more of his work here.