Israel-Hamas War: Security Heightened in US Cities Amid Protests, Mounting Tensions

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WASHINGTON — As the Israel and Hamas conflict has continued to rage for a week now, protests were erupting and tensions are mounting across the US, prompting an enhancement in security.

Major American cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Portland and Pittsburgh, are on a heightened alert in bracing for protests and potential violence this coming weekend, reports Xinhua news agency.

Hundreds of people joined a rally at the Times Square in Manhattan on Friday afternoon, chanting and waving the Palestine’s red, black and green flag.

Some held signs reading “Free Palestine” and demanded ending the bombardment of Gaza and the funding of Israeli military.

On Thursday evening, two groups of students gathered in dueling rallies at the Columbia University in New York, in support of either Israel or Palestine in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

Tensions also heated as pro-Palestine and pro-Israel groups clashed on campus at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Thursday.

The scene turned hostile and chaotic as the two sides shouted and argued back and forth with physical confrontations in some cases, according to a report of the WRAL News.

The demonstrations came after former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal called for Friday to be a global day of protests against Israel’s retaliation against Hamas, and urged supporters to send a “message of rage to Zionists and to America”.

Law enforcement agencies across the US have stepped up their presence around synagogues, places of worship in the American Jewish community, and Israeli diplomatic posts.

During a press conference Thursday evening, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul stressed that the safety of New Yorkers is of the utmost concern.

“We have directed the NYPD (New York City Police Department) to surge additional resources to schools, houses of worship, to ensure they are safe and that our city remains a place of peace,” Adams said.

NYPD canceled all training for officers Thursday and ordered the force to be in uniform and on patrol, NBC News reported.

In Washington, D.C., police said that there were no credible threats to the area, but they were expecting increased law enforcement visibility to help ensure the safety of the community.

Police also enhanced security in the Capitol complex.

Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency to enhance security around pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrations, including on campuses.

In most major Texas cities, including Austin, Dallas and Houston, police issued advisories about increased vigilance or patrols in response to the call for Friday demonstrations.

According to the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, at least 140 protests across the country have been tracked since the Hamas attack on Israel on october 7, in which some protesters glorified violence and attacks on civilians.

Online threats against Jewish people have increased 400 per cent since the conflict erupted, the group said. — IANS

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