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Jewish man, 69, dies after clash during dueling protests over Israel-Palestinian conflict in LA area

Ventura County man dies after altercation at dueling Israel-Hamas protests
Ventura County man dies after altercation at dueling Israel-Hamas protests 03:17

A 69-year-old man died after an altercation while two sides rallied over the Israel-Hamas conflict Sunday afternoon in Thousand Oaks.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Office identified the 69-year-old man as Paul Kessler, a pro-Israel protester. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles described him as an "elderly Jewish man," and said a pro-Palestinian protester struck him with a megaphone in what they described as an "antisemitic crime."

Update: Jewish protester's death in LA area remains under investigation as eyewitness accounts conflict

"Violence against our people has no place in civilized society," the Jewish Federation said in a statement. "We demand safety. We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything in our power to prevent it."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced the alleged attack and expressed support for the Jewish community. 

"We urge everyone to wait for the Ventura County Sheriff's Office to complete its investigation before drawing any conclusions," the organization said in a statement. "While we strongly support the right of political debate, CAIR-LA and the Muslim community stand with the Jewish community in rejecting any and all violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, or incitement of hatred."

Deputies said the alleged battery happened at about 3:20 p.m. at the intersection of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, where simultaneous pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests were taking place. Witnesses told investigators that a counter-protester struck Kessler before falling and striking his head on the ground. 

He was taken to the hospital where he died a day later. 

The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office classified his death as a homicide. Deputies said they are actively investigating the incident and have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. 

Investigators urge anyone with information to reach out to the sheriff's office at (805) 384-4745. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. 

Video and pictures of the incident can be anonymously sent to the VCSO here.

-Laurie Perez contributed reporting.

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