NEW YORK (PIX11) – Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Times Square Friday after the former leader of Hamas called for Muslims to rally in support of Palestinians as the Israel-Hamas war entered its seventh day.
Khaled Meshaal, who led Hamas until 2017, called for mass protests around the world in a recorded statement sent to Reuters.
“[We must] head to the squares and streets of the Arab and Islamic world on Friday,” Meshaal said.
He went on to say, in part, “To all scholars who teach jihad for the sake of God and who preach the fighters and martyrs, to all who teach and learn, this is a moment of application [of theories], so that words are not just words.”
Earlier on Friday, a “CUNY rally and march for Palestine” was held at Baruch College. Around 200 people who attended the solemn gathering then marched to Times Square to join other demonstrators at the “International Day of Action for Palestine.”
While at Baruch College, a pro-Palestinian supporter and a pro-Israel supporter got into an argument that turned physical, according to police. Both men were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Besides that incident, the demonstrations Friday remained relatively peaceful.
“What’s happening is unfair, and what’s happening has been happening for 75 years,” said Aliyah, the Manhattan resident. “What we are unhappy about is the western hypocrisy in the sense that they are being silenced for 75 years, yet when the resistance has a reaction of a part of what they’ve been seeing in the Gaza Strip for 16 years and the entire Palestine for 75 years, now they are coming up and saying ‘terrorists.'”
A Manhattan resident who attended the rally at Baruch College spoke about why she came out to demonstrate in support of Palestinians.
At Times Square, a counter-demonstration was held by pro-Israel supporters across the street from the pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
“I want to destroy Hamas completely,” one of the pro-Israel supporters said in an interview. When asked what she thought about the civilians who have been killed on both sides of the conflict, she responded: “I don’t care about the other side. I care only about the Israelis.”
After gathering in Times Square, the pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through the streets of Manhattan and protested outside the Israeli consulate on the East Side.
Later Friday evening, a large crowd of Jewish New Yorkers and allies marched to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s home in Brooklyn, demanding the senator help work toward a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to the office of New York State Assembly member Zohran Mamdani.
Protesters held a banner reading “Jews Say Stop the Genocide of Palestinians,” Mamdani’s office said.
The NYPD later arrested dozens of the protesters, including Mamdani, after demonstrators blocked the entryway to Schumer’s street, according to Mamdani’s office.
“Tonight, we are on the brink of genocide of the Palestinian people,” Mamdani said in a statement. “Following the horrific murders of Israelis, we are seeing that Israel intends to level Gaza and is escalating its actions, including the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, ongoing use of white phosphorous, targeting of first responders, bombardments of residential buildings, and is calling for 1.1 million Palestinians to leave their homes in the next 24 hours.”
Schumer is preparing to travel with a delegation of lawmakers to Israel this weekend. Schumer said he’s leading a bipartisan group of senators to Israel to show “unwavering” support from the United States.
The NYPD increased security in New York City on Friday due to the protests. There were no credible threats detected, according to top intelligence from the NYPD.
Palestinians on Friday were fleeing northern Gaza following an order from Israel. The order applies to around 1 million people, which makes up about half of the population of Gaza.
Israeli warplanes struck cars fleeing south, killing more than 70 people, according to Hamas’ media office.
The United Nations called on Israel to reverse the order, saying that the mass evacuations could be calamitous.
Israel is expected to launch a ground offensive against Hamas, the ruling militant group in Gaza.
Unrelenting Israeli strikes over the past week have leveled large swaths of neighborhoods, magnifying the suffering of Gaza, which has also been sealed off from food, water and medical supplies, and under a virtual total power blackout.
“Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is just if you’ll make it, if you’re going to live,” said Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City.
In the week-old war, the Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that roughly 1,900 people have been killed in the territory — more than half of them under the age of 18, or women. The Hamas assault last Saturday killed more than 1,300 Israelis, most of whom were civilians, and roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were killed during the fighting, the Israeli government said.
Erin Pflaumer is a digital content producer from Long Island who has covered both local and national news since 2018. She joined PIX11 in 2023. See more of her work here.