LUBBOCK, Texas – The Israeli-Palestinian war has claimed 1,900 lives on both sides as of Tuesday and that number is expected to go up in the days to come. People across the world are grieving and fearing for friends and family in the Middle East. Lubbock is no exception.
“They’re going into homes and they’re killing single children and families to make a note, and nothing about that is right,” said Roy Levy, a supporter of Israel and a sophomore at Texas Tech University (TTU). “They want their land. They’re not going to get that land by doing what they’re doing.”
Groups on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were at the free speech area on TTU’s campus Tuesday. Each went about their demonstrations differently.
Pro-Palestine students voiced anti-Israel sentiment. They walked together, held posters and chanted things like, “Israel, you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide.”
“We’re not here to subjugate one group and to uplift another,” said Ahmad Altabaa, a supporter of Palestine and a senior at TTU. “We’re here to speak to the humanity of everyone, but we need this also, because what’s going on in Israel is that they are taking away the humanity of the Palestinians.”
Supporters of Israel on the other hand mostly kept to themselves and said that prayer holds a lot of power to fight evil.
“1,000 Jewish people are dead, and there’s nothing that can bring them back,” said Julian Cohen, a supporter of Israel and the president of TTU Hillel. “There’s no amount of prayer that can bring them back, so we intend to live for them and we intend to honor them with our prayer.”
The Israeli military said Hamas militants invaded the Be’eri Kibbutz near Gaza and killed about 10% of the farming community’s population.
“Terrorists murdered over 100 completely innocent civilians unarmed at that kibbutz,” said Bain Serna, a supporter of Israel. “The fact that my mom lived there for a long time back in the 60s just hits home with that history and family connection there. It’s just really tragic.”
In response to Hamas’ surprise attack on Saturday, Israel’s been hammering back. Officials in Gaza said 900 people have been killed there.
“When one side does something, the other side is reciprocal,” Altabaa said. “Hate is a cycle. They will keep going from both sides until something happens where we can interject a peace treaty between them to calm down the situation between them.”
Cohen said luckily, his family and friends who live in Israel are safe, but unfortunately, they tell him they’ve all lost loved ones.
“It’s really difficult to comfort people and to really be there for your friends when you’re so far away, but even then, it’s difficult to try to comfort them knowing what they lost and knowing what we stand to lose as a people if Hamas is allowed to continue,” Cohen said.
WHAT IS HAMAS?
The group was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian refugee living in Gaza, during the first intifada, or uprising, which was marked by widespread protests against Israel’s occupation.
Hamas is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, and a recognition of the group’s roots and early ties to one of the Sunni world’s most prominent groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in the 1920s.
The group has vowed to annihilate Israel and has been responsible for many suicide bombings and other deadly attacks on civilians and Israeli soldiers.
The U.S. State Department has designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997. The European Union and other Western countries also consider it a terrorist organization.
Hamas won 2006 parliamentary elections elections and in 2007 violently seized control of the Gaza Strip from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority, dominated by rival Fatah movement, administers semi-autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel responded to the Hamas takeover with a blockade on Gaza, restricting movement of people and goods in and out of the territory in a step it says is needed to keep the group from developing weapons. The blockade has ravaged Gaza’s economy, and Palestinians accuse Israel of collective punishment.
Over the years, Hamas received backing from Arab countries, such as Qatar and Turkey. Recently, it’s moved closer to Iran and its allies.
Pidgeon reported from Lubbock. Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report from Beirut.