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Israeli raid brings out dueling protests in NYC

A young man holds a Palestinian flag in

A young man holds a Palestinian flag in New York during a protest against an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. (June 1, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

Israel’s deadly raid on ships taking humanitarian aide to the Gaza Strip led to dueling protests in New York on Tuesday.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters waving Palestinian flags and chanting “On the land and on the sea stop Israeli piracy” gathered outside the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan to condemn the raid, which killed nine activists, including at least four from Turkey.

A smaller group of pro-Israel activists protested outside the Turkish Mission to the U.N. The group said Israel has a right to defend itself. One protester held up a sign saying, “Humanitarians Don’t Attack Humans.”

Worldwide condemnation has been flooding in since Israeli naval commandos halted the aid flotilla in international waters overnight Monday, setting off a melee that left the activists dead and dozens wounded. Turkey, an unofficial backer of the flotilla, has led the criticism, accusing Israel of committing a massacre.

The flotilla was meant to draw attention to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza, imposed three years ago after Hamas militants seized power. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas, which has fired rockets into the Jewish state, from building up its arsenal. Critics note the closure has failed to hurt the Palestinian militant group while damaging Gaza’s already weak economy.

“This is just inhumanity,” said Mevla Gavaz, a 21-year-old Brooklyn resident of Macedonian-Turkish descent. “I just think that their main message is that they want Gaza to be theirs and anybody who gets in their way will suffer as well.”

Maria Munoz, a 20-year-old from Ecuador, said she felt the world should strongly condemn the raid.

“They killed peaceful activists, and we cannot allow that,” Munoz said. “What they did was against the law, and it seems that they’re free to do what they wish.”

Several blocks away Rabbi Mordechai Tokarsky, chairman of the Russian American Jewish Experience, which organized the rally in support of Israel, said the country has a right to defend its borders.

Hamas is a terrorist regime, a regime that causes Israeli children to live in fear of rockets,” Tokarsky said.

The U.S. government considers Hamas a terrorist organization. Hamas says it provides schools and other social benefits to residents in the areas it controls.

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