Local leaders in Southern California swiftly denounced Hamas militants and increased security around Jewish institutions hours after a deadly attack killed at least 200 Israelis in the Middle East.
“I join voices across the nation condemning this horrific attack on Israel,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Saturday in a statement. “The Los Angeles region has the second largest Jewish population outside of Israel and many families are anxiously awaiting developments as they unfold. My thoughts are with those families this morning. Angelenos stand with those under siege mourning loss. May their memories be a blessing.”
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Saturday that the department added extra patrols to areas of the city that serve Jewish and Muslim communities.
In Beverly Hills, where police also stepped up security, Mayor Dr. Julian Gold called on President Biden and Congress to act swiftly in support of Israel.
“Our hearts are with the people of Israel as we stand together and support Israel defending itself and condemn this heinous act,” Gold said in a statement.
News reports from Jerusalem indicated that more than 1,000 Israelis had been injured as Palestinian Hamas militants fired thousands of rockets and sent fighters into Israel from the Gaza Strip in a coordinated and sophisticated assault Saturday that shocked Israel, sent residents fleeing and left bodies on the streets. Militants also captured an unknown number of Israeli hostages.
The Associated Press described the attack as “the deadliest in Israeli territory in years.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday declared war against Hamas, which he said “launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens” in the early morning hours.
In a statement, Netanyahu said he ordered security to clear out the communities infiltrated by terrorists and ordered an “extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known.”
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least 198 people were killed and at least 1,610 wounded in Israel’s counterattack in the Gaza Strip, which included airstrikes that flattened a 14-story residential tower that also holds Hamas offices in central Gaza City.
A ground incursion, 18 years after Israel withdrew from Gaza, is not out of the question, experts say.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath joined in the condemnation of Hamas militants.
“All responsible for this attack must be held to account,” Horvath posted on social media. “I pray for strength and safety in Israel.
Brian Levin, former director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, said he was “shocked and saddened” to wake up to images of fire and violence overseas.
“As a citizen of the world who has been working with diverse groups here and elsewhere to promote peace, it’s beyond heartbreaking,” Levin said. “But additionally, as a Jewish person whose father was a POW to the Nazis and has relatives who have faced the horror of the Holocaust, to see photos of bloodied women and elderly grandmothers held hostage is jarring. So I guess I have two incredible disappointments.”
Levin, who has long studied hate crime trends in the U.S., expressed fear that a prolonged conflict could lead to racial or religiously motivated violence in California and elsewhere. He pointed to data that showed antisemitic hate crimes in New York and Los Angeles boomed in May 2021, as violence broke out along the Gaza Strip.
Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Sen. Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park), members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus at the state Capitol, said they were “heartbroken and horrified by the devastating terrorist attacks against Israel.”
“We have visited the Israeli communities that have been ravaged by indiscriminate killings and kidnappings and many of us have friends and family in Israel who are huddled in bomb shelters with their children amid ongoing rocket attacks,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “Nothing can justify this brutal and grotesque violence. Israel has the right and responsibility to defend its civilians, and we are grateful to the many American leaders — including President Biden, Vice President Harris, Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler and members of Congress from California — who have spoken out clearly and unequivocally in support of Israel at this difficult moment.”
Jewish members of the House of Representatives also spoke out against the Hamas attacks.
“We are united in standing with and supporting our ally Israel as it responds to terrorist attacks from Gaza,” said a joint statement from Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Sara Jacobs (D-San Diego), Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano), Kathy E. Manning (D-N.C.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), Brad Sherman (D-Northridge), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Susan Wild (D-Pa.). “Hamas has declared war on Israel and her people. Our alliance with Israel is unbreakable; our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad.”
The members of the House committed to doing “all we can to ensure Israel has the ability and capacity to restore and maintain its security and the safety of all its citizens.”