In a shocking development that unfolded during a major Jewish holiday, Israel came under attack from Hamas militants early Saturday morning. The attack is leaving organizations and community members in New York state voicing their concerns.
Hamas launched a significant assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip, marking its most substantial attack in years. This surprise assault involved gunmen crossing the border with heavy rocket fire. Israel said it is now at war with Hamas and launched airstrikes in Gaza, vowing to inflict an “unprecedented price.”
Tom Ellis, a member of the Palestinian Rights Committee, shared his initial reaction to the ongoing situation, and expressed his astonishment.
"I was stunned when I heard it,” Ellis said. “I didn't think that the Palestinians were capable of that type of a military attack."
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has endured for over a century, has witnessed repeated attempts at resolution. Ellis, however, suggests that the attack on Saturday could be linked to the dire living conditions in Gaza and the failure of negotiations over the years. He emphasized that granting equal rights could potentially offer a pathway to resolution.
"After generations of savage abuse and malnutrition, the Palestinians are desperate,” he said. “And when people are desperate, they get creative. This is certainly a creative action on the part of Hamas."
Ellis raised concerns about the potential escalation of violence and called for an immediate ceasefire, alongside international support.
“I'm worried that thousands of Palestinians are going to get killed in the next couple of days in the Gaza Strip and perhaps in the West Bank as well,” he said. “The United States and the rest of the world should pressure Israel to grant Palestinians equal rights, which I believe would contribute to a resolution of the conflict."
The surprise attack on Israel drew a haunting historical parallel to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
Hank Greenberg, a member of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, expressed solidarity with Israel, noting the historical significance.
"Yom Kippur was selected by Israel's enemies 50 years ago because it fell on the Jewish holiest day,” Greenberg said. “Here we stand today on the Jewish Sabbath, almost 50 years after the Yom Kippur War, and again Israel's enemies attack brutally and in premeditated fashion."
Jeffrey Handelman, chairman of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, emphasized the need for unity against hatred and voiced deep concerns about the potential escalation of the conflict.
"There is no justification for terrorism anywhere in this country or anywhere else,” Handelman said. “This is not the path to peace."
Both groups, while holding diverse perspectives, share a common hope for peace and a swift resolution in the days to come. The situation continues to evolve, and local organizations and community members closely watch developments while seeking avenues for dialogue and reconciliation.
In a statement Saturday, Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke out against the attacks, calling them “abhorrent” and “cowardly.”
“In the face of abhorrent attacks from Hamas terrorists, New York stands steadfast in support of our neighbors in the State of Israel,” Hochul said. “This cowardly attack comes on a day when Jewish New Yorkers had planned to joyously celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. New York is proud to be home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel and as the community grieves today, we stand in solidarity with them."
U.S. President Joe Biden condemned “this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza.” He spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said Israel “has a right to defend itself and its people,” according to a White House statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.