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Local officials and loved ones rally in Times Square for release of hostages being held by Hamas

Times Square rally calls for release of hostages from Israel-Hamas war
Times Square rally calls for release of hostages from Israel-Hamas war 01:59

NEW YORK -- As the Israel-Hamas war intensifies, rallies are growing in size across New York City.

A massive rally was held in Times Square on Thursday, where hundreds of people called for the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

A sea of people packed Times Square and lined Seventh Avenue and Broadway, with Israeli flags draped around their bodies, demanding Hamas release the hostages that they are currently holding. 

"Every Israeli I know either knows somebody, has a loved one, family or friends who were killed, who were injured, who were abducted or missing," speaker Yuval David said.

"For us, it's very painful. For me, it's very painful to see such a terrible event happen, and if we don't show ourselves and show what happens, if it's not shown and not stood up for, then what are we here for other than being in support of humanity. It was totally inhumane what happened," a demonstrator named Jason said.

According to the Israeli military, more than 200 hostages were taken from Gaza.

Watch Alecia Reid's report

Hundreds attend rally calling for release of hostages held by Hamas 01:59

The Israeli-American Council (IAC) joined forces with other Jewish organizations, alongside former members of the Israel Defense Forces.

Elan Carr, CEO of IAC, says what Hamas is doing is unacceptable.

"We're here to comfort each other. I mean, we're in grief, and it's so important to be together. But make no mistake, what this is really about is demonstrating unwavering support for our Israeli brothers and sisters who have suffered so much and especially, especially for the families. The families of these hostages, 200 hostages that were dragged into the hell of Hamas captivity. These families are undergoing ineffable suffering," Carr said.

Security was tight at Duffy Square, where more than a dozen billboards displayed the Israeli flag as well as pictures of those being held captive. Some of their families spoke out.

"They were abusing. They were mocking. They were torturing their gentle souls. They were waking up their daughter with a gun pointed at her face, a 2-year-old who will forever remember this. They later on grouped them with other families. Not everyone made it out alive from that house," a speaker named Moshe said.

They are remaining hopeful they will see their loved ones again.

"We ask that you continue to treat Omer well and the rest of the hostages. We're asking you to show us that you have Omer and the others and that he is OK. We want to see him," one speaker said.

"I'm very worried, and my body is here like many Israelis, but our heart and mind are in Israel," said a demonstrator named Miki, whose daughters are fighting in the IDF.

It was an emotional night for many in attendance, in particular those with family members on the ground in Israel.

Local officials and loved ones came together Wednesday on the East Side, holding up flyers with the names and faces of the nearly 200 people thought to be held hostage by Hamas along the Gaza Strip. 

"Prioritize the lives of all the innocent children and the innocent people who are caught in the crosshairs of bad actors," one man said. "There's only one thing and only one thing to do right now: Bring them home. Bring them home."

The rally was hosted by several groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the UJC Federation of New York. A number of city officials, including Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, joined the calls for the release of innocent civilians.

"We are demanding the immediate and unconditional release of every single hostage held by Hamas. Every man and woman, every child, every senior citizen, every single one. We want them home safely," said Levine.

Hours later in Queens, a massive crowd rallied down Steinway Street in Astoria for blocks on end, calling attention to the lives lost in Gaza. 

"We are here. We are their voice. We are here to support the cause. We are here to make sure that everybody knows that Palestine has to be free," a demonstrator named Salma said. 

Since the war broke out, they say attacks on their people have surged across the U.S. 

"I have seen an increase in kind of hatred towards Muslims in general because people assume that, you know, all Muslims are correlated with that," a demonstrator named Kawther said.

CLICK HERE for the latest on the war from CBS News.

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