Long Islanders marched in and around Hicksville on Sunday for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, as dozens of prisoners and hostages, including an American citizen, have been exchanged under a fragile truce between the two warring sides.
Nassau County police could not provide initial estimates for the size of the large crowd taking part in the march, which appeared to be the length of well over two football fields as it continued on a nearly three-mile route that included a stop outside weapons-systems manufacturer Northrop Grumman's Bethpage offices on South Oyster Bay Road.
There, some prayed and others called for the cease-fire. A media representative for Northrop Grumman was not immediately available for comment late Sunday.
The rally, which started and ended at Broadway Plaza in Hicksville, was meant to advocate for an immediate cease-fire and raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, organizers said, as well as what protesters called U.S. complicity in the killing of thousands of Palestinians since the war began in early October.
"What we're hoping for is to bring awareness to Long Island about what's going on in [the Palestinian territories]," said Noura Farouk, 30, a rally organizer and founder of Mothers for Justice. "We call for a complete cease-fire."
The march was organized by multiple advocacy groups, including Muslims of Long Island, Muslims for Progress, The Halal Guide, Within Our Lifetime, Democratic Socialists of America, Party of Socialism and Liberation and the ICNA Council for Social Justice.
Farouk highlighted the number of civilian casualties in the war so far. The Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas killed more than 1,200 people. Israel then declared war on Hamas.
Since then, more than 13,300 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Associated Press.
"We find this to be a grave injustice," Farouk said of the civilian casualties.
Hamas militants freed 17 more hostages Sunday, including 14 Israelis and the first American, in the third exchange under a four-day truce that took effect early Friday, the first significant pause in seven weeks of war. Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners in turn.
A fourth exchange is expected on Monday, the last day of the cease-fire. A total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners, mostly women and minors, are to be freed during the truce.
Ahman Butt, 20, of Levittown, marched in the protest with her older sister Mariah Butt, 27, who wore a sweater with "Stop Genocide" painted in red and carried a handmade sign calling for a cease-fire.
Ahman Butt said people in Gaza are "being silenced right now; but here we are with the freedom of speech, so we're going to speak up for them."
Mariah Butt, who is also from Levittown, echoed Ahman's sentiments, adding that, with the internet outages in Gaza, it's harder for Palestinians to communicate with the international community.
"We have to raise our voices for them," she said.