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Tri-State Area Residents With Loved Ones In The Middle East Terrified As Violence Continues To Escalate

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The violence happening in the Middle East has been very unsettling for those who have loved ones there.

CBS2's Hazel Sanchez spoke to some local families who say this terrifying feeling of uncertainty is all too familiar.

As hostilities between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army continue to escalate, the relatively quiet streets of New York bring no comfort to those worrying about loved ones trying to survive the violence.

Nerdeen Kiswani, the 26-year-old founder of Within Our Lifetime In Palestine, has barely slept.

"My father's entire extended family is there," she said.

She's been overwhelmed with concern about her family living near the air strikes.

"Just two weeks ago in my village, cars and trees were set on fire, with racist graffiti, you know, put all over our village that says 'Death to Arabs.' So I'm worried about my family who live there," she said.

It's a shared concern for Rabbi David Zwiebel with Agudath Israel Of America, whose children and grandchildren live in Israel and are constantly rattled by sirens warning of an incoming missiles.

"In certain ways, we're more nervous here, long distance, than they are right there on the spot. And they say, 'Don't worry, don't worry. It's all gonna be good.' But we worry, you know," he said.

The loss of life has many local leaders in Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities yearning for peace.

"I do have hope because I think that the people are getting fed up with this," said Malcolm Hoenlein, with Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "We want peace for everybody. We don't want loss of life on any side. But we gotta make sure that the firefighter and the arsonist are not equated."

"It's heartbreaking," said Kanaan Wassim, with New Jersey American Muslims for Palestine. "Palestinian people are a people who will not just roll over, who will resist and are entitled to resist oppression and occupation. And we believe despite the feeling of helplessness, there is a feeling of hope."

With their hands tied here, many feel their voices of protest are all they have to help end the violence. Rallies in New York and New Jersey are planned for this weekend.

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