SAN DIEGO — The ongoing conflict in Israel that has left hundreds dead and thousands injured has stunned and devastated Jewish community groups in San Diego.
The deadly conflict began with an attack by militants with the Palestinian group Hamas early Saturday morning. Thousands of rockets were fired by the group into Israeli towns from Gaza, one of two territories within Israel where Palestinians reside, and also sent ground forces.
At least 300 Israelis have been killed and over a thousand were wounded in the attack, according to Israel officials as of 8:24 p.m. Saturday. Many of the injured are reportedly in critical condition. Hamas has also claimed to have captured dozens of Israelis, including soldiers.
Following the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel is “at war” against Hamas, launching retaliatory air strikes on Gaza that killed at least 230 Palestinians and left thousands more wounded, according to officials.
“It’s a very sad day,” said Fabienne Perlov, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. Along with many Jewish advocates in San Diego, she says she is currently mourning the attack and calling for peace, adding that “we cannot tolerate this type of activities from Hamas.”
Perlov told FOX 5 that she has family and friends in Israel who have had to hide in bunkers throughout the last day.
“You can imagine they were living in a terror, in a state of terror, for those who are around the country they are devastated, they are anxious,” Perlov said.
“This is the terrible 24 hours the people of Sha’ar Hanegev have been living through,” said Charlene Seidle, the executive vice president of The Leichtag Foundation. The foundation supports the Jewish Community in San Diego, as well as non-profits that promote civil liberties in Israel.
Seidle said the attacks come at the end of Judiasm’s happiest holiday, Sukkot. Sukkot is a festival of the agriculture cycle. It’s celebrated by building a hut and going out in the land to collect the fall harvest. The end of Sukkot is the start of the Simchat Torah holiday.
“It feels really heartbreaking and devastating to know that friends and relatives of friends are now going to sleep without a mother, without their children and (with) very uncertain days ahead,” Seidle continued.
Local officials and Jewish advocates particularly voiced grief over the loss of Ofir Liebstein, the mayor of San Diego’s Israeli sister city, Sha’ar Hanegev. Liebstein was killed in a shootout with militants Saturday morning.
“San Diego stands with the people of Israel in the wake of today’s horrific terrorist attacks and condemns Hamas in the strongest possible terms,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement.
“With the support of our Jewish community, our city has fostered strong ties with Israel,” he continued. “Our hearts are with the families of the innocent civilians killed in the attacks and all those in our own community suffering the agony of waiting for news of loved ones in danger.”
The Jewish Federation of San Diego has launched a fundraiser for “our friends in Israel and Sha’ar Hanegev” through their website.
There will also be a vigil held in honor of the Israelis lost in the attack on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.
FOX 5’s Danielle Dawson contributed to this report.