More local demonstrations planned for today

HOUSTON [PHOTOS: See images form the conflict in the Middle East]

The battle over the Gaza Strip between Israelis and Palestinians has people here in Houston closely watching developments half a world away. Hundreds of people were waving flags and signs at the intersection of Westheimer and Post Oak yesterday, wanting attacks in the region to stop.

Some people here defend the actions of the Israeli military, while protestors want it to end.

As Israeli aircraft pound Hamas targets in Gaza, thousands of miles away, the emotions of the conflict are close to home.

"I have family over there, cousins, friends, everyone," said protestor Nawal Abou-Awad.

On Sunday, hundreds of Palestinian Americans lined one of the busiest intersections in the city, calling for the attacks to stop.

"We are originally from Gaza and I was born and raised in Jordan," said protestor Yousef Jaber. "And so was my father and mother. And we are Gaza in the heart and in the blood."

Police kept a close eye on the peaceful, yet passionate demonstration that started in the early afternoon.

"The United States has to really put the pressure on Israel to abide by the United Nations resolution and the peace negotiation and not to try and solve the problems by killing innocent people," protestor Dr Rezik Saqer told us.

The biggest problem officers battled was congestion. Blocks away, a police escort led local Jews in their celebration of the last night of Hanukkah. They dedicated their annual menorah parade to the people and soldiers of Israel.

Rabbi Barry Gelman says it is time Israel defends itself against missiles from Hamas in Gaza.

"If they want the fighting to stop, they have to change the address of the message and send it to Hamas," he said. "If Hamas stops shooting missiles into Israel from Gaza, this will all come to an end. That's very obvious to anyone who understands what's going on here."

Consul General of Israel Asher Yarden says Israel is targeting terrorists, not innocent civilians.

"What are they trying to say? Are they supporting the killing of Israeli civilians and when we try to put an end to those killings, they are against it? It's very difficult to understand," he said.

There's another protest planned today against the actions by the Israelis. Protesters say humanitarian aid is needed in Gaza. Many are without food and water. While the protest yesterday was not planned, there is an organized protest set for this afternoon at 4pm at the Israeli consulate.

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