Masked protester hoists ‘Kill Hostages Now’ sign during Israel Day parade in NYC

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The Israel Day parade in New York City turned heated Sunday as pro-Israel demonstrators squared off with counterprotesters, including one who held up a sign that read, “Kill Hostages Now.” 

The counterprotester wore a black mask and a Palestinian flag as he held up the incendiary sign. Police officers nudged him back onto his side of the protest so as not to escalate an already tense situation. 

Marchers in the pro-Israel camp were chanting for the release of hostages taken in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel that triggered the war in Gaza. Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. About 100 hostages remain in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

People chanted “Bring them home now!” and waved Israeli flags as they marched up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for what this year was called “Israel Day on Fifth.”

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The demonstration brought heightened security, with New York Police Department officials employing measures typically used for high-profile events such as New Year’s Eve and July 4. That included drones, K-9 units, bike patrols, fencing and barriers and designated entry points for spectators along the parade route. Backpacks, large bags and coolers were prohibited, and spectators had to pass through metal detectors.

The parade, in its 59th year, kicked off late Sunday morning with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams attending.

Police did not report any parade-related arrests by late Sunday afternoon.

The parade represents the first large-scale Jewish event in the city since the war started, although there have been roughly 2,800 protests in the city, with about 1,300 of them related to the conflict.

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More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israel’s offensive, per Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. Its count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel blames Hamas for civilian deaths, accusing it of operating from dense residential areas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.