More than 100 people gathered at Marion Square in downtown Charleston on Sunday in a show of support for Palestinians living in Gaza, with many saying too many civilians have been killed amidst a political struggle between Hamas and Israel.
"The families are getting killed," said Nabila Dames, a Palestinian native. "It's painful to see your people getting killed."
The fight between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas began on July 7 with an exchange of rocket fire after Israeli planes damaged a tunnel dug by Hamas from inside the Gaza Strip. More than 1,030 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed in the conflict, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Two Israeli civilians have been killed in the conflict as well as 43 Israeli soldiers.
Sunday's demonstration was organized by the Charleston Muslim Women Youth Society, which is affiliated with the Central Mosque of Charleston. Supporters gathered on sidewalks at the intersection of King and Calhoun streets where some waved the Palestinian flag while others held up signs with messages ranging from "Free hugs Free Palestine" to "Stop Israeli terrorists from killing innocent kids."
Ruby Abid, who runs the society, said her organization wanted to hold the demonstration to show support for the Palestinian people and draw attention to what many in her group feel has become a humanitarian issue.
"They are here to just spread peace," Abid said of the demonstrators. "We are all human. We should respect all religions and humanity."
Dr. Ghazala Javed said the Palestinian people are being "brutally killed" and called the conflict between Israel and Hamas an "unequal war" with the Palestinians vastly unmatched against the well equipped Israeli army.
"It's comparable to genocide," Javed said.
Many demonstrators echoed Javed's sentiments saying too many Palestinian civilians, especially children, are being killed or injured in the conflict. Others noted that the Palestinians have been trapped in terrible conditions in Gaza where damage to buildings and infrastructure has left them without electricity and limited access to water.
"Something needs to be done," said Palestinian native May Amria.
Dr. Abid Irshad, who is a member of the Central Mosque of Charleston, said he is disappointed in how the United States is handling the conflict. Irshad said the United States was the only country to vote against a United Nations resolution to conduct an inquiry into human rights violations in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
"I just think the United States needs to put its foot down and stop this atrocity," Irshad said.
The conflict in Gaza is a divisive issue with many people's perspectives falling along religious or ethnic lines. Last week members of Brith Sholom Beth Israel Synagogue gathered to pray for Israel and for peace. Speakers at the service defended Israel's actions, saying the country has a right to defend its borders and its people from Hamas.
While some demonstrators on Sunday supported Hamas, many said it's not about taking sides or laying blame. It's about standing up for human rights.
"If it were any other country, I would still be here," said Dr. Reshma Khan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reach Amanda Kerr at 937-5546 or at Twitter.com/PCAmandaKerr.