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Wearing black T-shirts saying “Jews say ceasefire now” and “Not in our name”, hundreds of protesters filled the main concourse of the railway terminal during the evening rush hour as Israel intensified its bombardment of Gaza.
At least 200 of the demonstrators were detained by New York Police Department officers and led out of the railway station, their hands zip-tied behind their backs. The police said the protesters were issued summonses and released.
Some protesters hoisted banners as they scaled the stone ledges in front of the signboards listing departure times.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority asked commuters to use Penn Station as an alternative. After the sit-in was broken up by police, the remaining protesters spilt into the streets outside.
Images on social media showed protesters pouring out of the train station and on to 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, and a large crowd being detained by law enforcement officials.
“Hundreds of Jews and friends are taking over Grand Central Station in a historic sit-in calling for a ceasefire,” advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace said on social media.
It posted a video on Instagram showing police at the station escorting a long line of protesters with their arms secured behind their backs.
“Hundreds of Jews and allies are getting arrested in what is likely the biggest mass civil disobedience movement NYC has seen in two decades,” the group wrote in the post.
The scene was similar to a sit-in last week on Capitol Hill in Washington, where Jewish advocacy groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now, poured into a congressional office building. More than 300 people were arrested for demonstrating illegally.
Israel stepped up air strikes across the Gaza Strip on Friday, knocking out internet and largely cutting off communication with the 2.3 million people inside the besieged Palestinian enclave. Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry says more than 7,300 people have been killed, more than 60 per cent of them minors and women.
The Israeli military said on Friday it was expanding ground operations in the territory, seen as a signal that it was moving closer to an all-out invasion of Gaza, where it has vowed to crush the ruling Hamas militant group after its bloody incursion in southern Israel three weeks ago.
More than 1,400 people were killed in Israel during the attack, according to the Israeli government, and at least 229 hostages were taken into Gaza.
Amid mounting concern for the plight of civilians in Gaza, the UN General Assembly on Friday approved a non-binding resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities.
It was the first UN response to Hamas’ surprise October 7 attacks and Israel’s continuing military response.