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US: Senior Jewish man dies after confrontation amid pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian protests in Los Angeles

The 69-year-old Paul Kessler's death is being investigated as a homicide and authorities have not ruled out a hate crime after an autopsy revealed a blunt force trauma. Protests in support of Israel and Palestine have been raging across the world since the war broke out.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Los Angeles Published on: November 07, 2023 12:17 IST
Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protests have been raging
Image Source : AP Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protests have been raging across the world since the war broke out.

A senior Jewish man died on Monday after he struck his head during a confrontation on the previous day amid pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Los Angeles, according to authorities. The man has been identified as Paul Kessler.

His death is being investigated as a homicide and authorities have not ruled out a possible hate crime, as per a statement from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. So far, no arrests have been made.

Kessler was injured on Sunday during competing demonstrations in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 125,000 northwest of Los Angeles. Police received reports that a battery had occurred and deputies sent to the scene found Kessler suffering from a head wound, the department said.

“Witness accounts indicated that Kessler was involved in a physical altercation with counter-protestor(s). During the altercation, Kessler fell backwards and struck his head on the ground," the department said. An autopsy confirmed that he died from blunt force head injury as a result of homicide.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles said Kessler was Jewish and that he was struck in the head by a megaphone held by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator. The sheriff's department didn't immediately confirm those details but planned a news conference Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, near Thousand Oaks, urged people to avoid jumping to conclusions about what happened. He said police are being cautious before making accusations. “We need to do the same, and not let this become a spark that starts an inferno,” he wrote.

Since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out last month protests have been held around the world. Hamas militants have been condemned for invading Israel and killing and kidnaping civilians while Israel has been accused of indiscriminate bombing that has killed many civilians in Gaza.

The Israel-Hamas war

The Palestinian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war surpassed 10,000, including more than 4,100 children and 2,640 women, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

In the occupied West Bank, more than 140 Palestinians have been killed in the violence and Israeli raids. More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that started the fighting, and 242 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the militant group.

Roughly 1,100 people have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing since Wednesday under an apparent agreement among the United States, Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.

The Israeli military says it has surrounded Gaza City and is preparing for expected ground battles, amid rising calls for an immediate ceasefire. Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected such calls, he said that his government would be open to "little pauses".

(with inputs from AP)

ALSO READ | Israel PM Netanyahu suggests 'little pauses' in Gaza after conversation with Biden, rules out ceasefire

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