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Anger over the Israeli assault on Gaza spilled into Times Square on Saturday, as hundreds of protesters condemned the attacks in a demonstration that stretched four blocks and clogged much of central tourist district for several hours.
The protest came as Israeli troops began a ground incursion into the Hamas-controlled territory in what officials described as an effort to end Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel. The land campaign follows eight days of Israeli airstrikes that have killed more than 430 Palestinians, many of them civilians.
News of the escalation came midway through the demonstration and cast a pall over the crowd as it was announced over loudspeakers and crept across the news tickers nearby. But many protesters said they were not surprised, and some sounded a defiant note.
“As organized as the Palestinian community is here in the United States, we already knew this was going to happen, and I think the Palestinian people in Gaza have expected it,” said Linda Sarsour, 28, a Palestinian-American social worker from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, home to one of the country’s oldest Arab communities. “Now it’s time for Israel to come in and face the people on the ground. It’s all-out war now, and we’ll see what happens.”
Demonstrators waved signs that read “Stop Massacres in Gaza” and “End the Siege.” Speakers led the crowd in chants of “Free, free Palestine.” The protest was made up predominantly of people of Middle Eastern or Arab descent, but also included Jewish groups, students and others who support an independent Palestinian state. Many, whether Palestinian or not, wore black-and-white kaffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian scarf, and waved Palestinian flags.
Police cordoned off part of the sidewalk and a lane and a half of Seventh Avenue from 42nd Street to 38th Street to accommodate the crowd. The demonstrators then marched in a slow procession along 42nd Street to the Israeli Consulate on Second Avenue....