Bay Area residents with Palestinian and Jewish ties feel pain of deadly conflict in Israel

The pain of the escalating violence in Israel is being felt by Bay Area residents with ties to Palestinian and Jewish relatives and friends caught in the middle of the conflict.

"Many people are having to flee into bomb shelters. Everybody can hear the explosions. It's a very scary time," said Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin of Temple Sinai in Oakland. She says she and members of her congregation are thinking of loved ones in Israel.

"Some of the violence that's happening inside Israel between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs is something that feels very new, and it's scary. It's scary to watch. So people are feeling very emotional, very raw, and just afraid as they're watching things unfold," she said. 

The pain also is being felt by Bay Area residents with Palestinian ties.

"We see all of this violence we see people out on the streets we see our families putting their lives on the line. And for us it's just hard because there's only so much we can do from here," said Sharif Zakout of San Francisco. Zakout has family in Gaza. 

He is an organizer with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center and says they are holding a 2 p.m. rally in San Francisco at 16th Street and Valencia in the Mission District on Saturday, to call for an end to the violence.

He says it's difficult to see the violence coming during the holy period of Ramadan.

"For us, the end of Ramadan Eid marks a very holy day and there are families out there who lost their young ones children who've died in the occupation," said Zakout.

Israeli tanks firing into Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on buildings have taken a human toll on Palestinian civilians.

Israelis also have felt the deadly blasts from rockets fired from Hamas-ruled territory in Gaza which began on Monday aimed at Tel Aviv and other populated areas.

The blasts continued into a fourth night Thursday with Israeli police maintaining a curfew after clashes on the streets.

UC Berkeley Professor Ron Hassner is an expert on the Middle East. He says this conflict does have some significant differences from other clashes in the longtime battle between Israel and Hamas.

"Hamas regularly launches rockets at Israeli cities at a pace of about 10 months. But in the last two nights, almost 2,000 rockets have been launched into Israeli population centers," said Hassner.

He says one factor now is instability in the Israeli government. An uneasy alliance aimed at ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brought together unlikely parties, including far-right conservative Israeli politicians as well as Arab Israelis and more liberal factions. The opposition leader Yair Lapid is trying to rally the coalition to unify in time to meet the deadline in three weeks.  

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way out, and a new government has not yet been formed," said Hassner, noting that Hamas might be trying to capitalize on the uncertainty.

Also a factor, Hassner says, is a rift between Palestinian leaders and Hamas.

"For the first time in 20 years, there was a promise of Palestinian elections which Hamas was poised to win. And then the head of the Palestinian Authority canceled those elections, precisely because Hamas was poised to win, and that angered Hamas and its supporters tremendously," said Hassner.

Israel has called up 9,000 reserve troops and stationing them near the Gaza territory.

Hassner says a ground attack could bring the death toll from hundreds right now to potentially thousands of civilian casualties. According to Gaza's Health Ministry, 109 Palestinians, including 28 children and 15 women have been killed and 621 people have been wounded. In Israel, seven people have been killed including a 6-year-old boy.

Egypt has sent negotiators to broker a cease-fire, meeting with Hamas leaders in Gaza and Israelis in Tel Aviv, according to two Egyptian intelligence officials. 

"What we pray for is an end to the violence and an end to the death and to the destruction," said Mates-Munich.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or