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Conflict between Israel and Palestine makes its way to the streets of Gainesville

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 11:54 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -The conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine has North Central Florida residents taking to the streets.

On Wednesday night, the corner of University Avenue and 13th Street was packed with Palestine supporters. In response, supporters of Israel showed up shortly after. A median acted as a divider between those that are pro-Israel and those that are pro-Palestine.

“Free, free Palestine,” shouted supporters of Palestine.

RELATED STORY: Israel’s Netanyahu ‘determined’ to continue Gaza operation

People from all across the area showed up to the rally, including some who have been to Palestine.

“I went to Palestine for the first time in 2016, and I volunteered for two months at an NGO,” said Cedar Key resident Pam Meyers. “I made such good friends there, and I love the country. I learned more. I mean, I knew about the occupation. I knew about the wall, but I didn’t know that much.”

Meyers believes Palestinians living in Israel are mistreated.

“These are oppressed people. These are people that have been under illegal occupation for decades. I have been to Palestine I see how Israel is rampant throughout the West Bank. Palestinians have to go through checkpoints. They are harassed. They are embarrassed,” said Meyers.

Jonah Green, a University of Florida student, said he has been to Israel, and everyone lives peacefully together, including Palestinians.

“Very nice beautiful place. There is Palestinians, there is Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Jews all living together,” explained Green.

He believes Hamas started this recent spike in controversy.

“There was a lot of tension in Israel at the moment, but the escalation was due to the rockets fired by Hamas,” said Green.

However, Meyers disagrees and said Palestinians need to defend themselves. Green explained he and other supporters of Israel support the rights of Palestinians.

“A lot of them will say they are for Palestine and the rights of the Palestinians. I mean, so are we. They will say they are anti-Zionists, that’s anti-Semitism. It is a mask for anti-Semitism. We have heard this in the ’30s with the Nazis. We are hearing it again just under a different name,” explained Green.

RELATED STORY: Biden and Netanyahu face first rough test of relationship

In a telephone call Wednesday, President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expected “significant de-escalation” of the fighting by day’s end, according to the White House. But the prime minister came right back with a public declaration that he was “determined to continue” the Gaza operation “until its objective is achieved.”

Netanyahu did allow that he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president,” but said nonetheless that Israel would push ahead.

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