NEW YORK (WPIX) – Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Times Square Friday after the former leader of Hamas called for Muslims to rally in support of the militant group as its war with Israel entered its seventh day.
Khaled Meshaal, who led Hamas until 2017, called for mass protests around the world in a recorded statement sent to Reuters.
“[We must] head to the squares and streets of the Arab and Islamic world on Friday,” Meshaal said.
He went on to say, in part, “To all scholars who teach jihad for the sake of God and who preach the fighters and martyrs, to all who teach and learn, this is a moment of application [of theories], so that words are not just words.”
Earlier on Friday, a “CUNY rally and march for Palestine” was held at Baruch College. Protesters then marched to Times Square to join the “International Day of Action for Palestine.”
The NYPD increased security in the city due to the protests. There are no credible threats at this time, according to top intelligence from the NYPD.
Palestinians on Friday were fleeing northern Gaza following an order from Israel. The order applies to around 1 million people, which makes up about half of the population of Gaza.
Israel is expected to launch a ground offensive against Hamas, the ruling militant group in Gaza.
The United Nations called on Israel to reverse the order, saying that the mass evacuations could be calamitous.
More than 2,800 people have been killed on both sides of the conflict, including at least 27 Americans. The number of missing Americans rose to 14, White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday.
This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.