SAN DIEGO — The conflict in Israel sparked demonstrations across the country on Sunday, including one in San Diego.
Pro-Palestine protesters and pro-Israel counter protestors clashed throughout the afternoon at a protest in Balboa Park, echoing their national counterparts. San Diego police officers were seen stepping in to keep the peace between the groups.
FOX 5 spoke with demonstrators on both sides of the event.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators said that the rally aimed to show solidarity with Palestinians, who have been subject to a decades-long military occupation by the Israeli government that human rights organizations say amounts to an apartheid system.
Prior to the conflict that erupted Saturday, as many as 6,407 Palestinians have been killed in occupied territory since 2008, according to the United Nations. During this same timeframe, roughly 308 Israeli citizens were killed as a result of the ongoing conflict.
“A lot of the narrative has been very wishy-washy,” Sabrina Damanhouri, one of the organizers of the rally in support of Palestine, said of the Hamas attack. “A lot of people are under the assumption this has started as of Saturday Oct. 7, but this has not been something that’s an isolated incident. This has been going on for the past 75 years.”
Counter-protestors at Sunday’s rally countered this argument saying that Saturday’s attack on Israel was not justified and serves as an example of anti-Semitism.
“There’s no excuse this isn’t a land dispute, this isn’t about occupation,” Stephanie Nisan, a Jewish-American who protested against the Palestinian rally, said to FOX 5. “This is about Jewish blood.”
Elected officials across the country echoed this sentiment of condemnation, including President Joe Biden who pledged to support Israel with military aid.
Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning, the White House said, and told the Israeli prime minister that “additional assistance for the Israeli Defense Forces” is now on its way. That includes one of the U.S.’s most advanced aircraft carriers.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine escalated to war with an attack launched by militants with Hamas — a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist group that contests Israel’s claim to land.
The group, which is recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S., fired thousands of rockets into Israeli towns from the Gaza, a 140 square mile territory that is one of two where Palestinians reside, and also sent in ground forces.
After the attack, Netanyahu declared that they were “at war” with Hamas, initiating retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza.
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, the death toll surpassed 1,100 — at least 700 Israelis and more than 400 Palestinians — with thousands more wounded. At least four American citizens were also confirmed dead as a result of the conflict, U.S. officials confirmed.
The Israeli-American Council is planning its own pro-Israel rally that is set to take place Tuesday night at the Jacobs Family campus in La Jolla. A separate vigil will also be held Tuesday at the Jewish Community Center in honor of the Israelis lost in the attack.