Live updates: Massachusetts reacts to Israel-Hamas war

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Many with Massachusetts ties are feeling the impacts of the war.

A crowd of pro-Israel demonstrators react as pro-Palestine demonstrators drive past their rally on the front steps of Cambridge City Hall. Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe

More than a week after fighters with the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip launched a brutal surprise attack on Israelis, thousands have died on both sides. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared the country at war, calling up more than 300,000 reservists and pummeling Gaza with airstrikes in retaliation.

Israeli troops have continued amassing at the border of the enclave early this week ahead of a widely expected ground invasion. Israel told those in northern Gaza to evacuate, sending more than half a million people streaming into the south. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is growing worse by the day, as fuel, food, and clean water run out. Talks that would open the southern border crossing between Gaza and Egypt have stalled, with people hoping to flee trapped on one side and trucks loaded with supplies stuck on the other.

The war has sent reverberations around the globe, affecting many in Massachusetts. Follow here for live updates.

From left, Wafaa Abuzayda, Yousef Okal, and Abood Okal. – Family photo

A Massachusetts family trapped in southern Gaza is reportedly entering “survival mode” as they struggle to secure clean water and food until the border crossing with Egypt is opened. 

Abood Okal; his wife, Wafaa Abuzayda; and their 18-month-old son, Yousef, were visiting family in Gaza when Hamas militants attacked Israel earlier this month, leading to a punishing Israeli response and a worsening humanitarian crisis in the enclave. The situation for the family and hundreds of thousands of others in Gaza has grown increasingly dire following the evacuation of civilians from the north. 

The family from Medway was staying in a rural area about 10 miles from the Rafah crossing, which links Gaza and Egypt, as of Sunday, The Boston Globe reported. 

Despite being “exhausted and sleep-deprived,” the family is trying to stay strong for their young son. 

“The hardest feeling is to hide your fear, and show the opposite, just to keep my son positive,” Abuzayda told NPR. “He doesn’t understand anything. He thinks this [is] fireworks.”

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Sunday after a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that the Rafah crossing would open, according to The New York Times. But the crossing remained closed Monday, despite a message from the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem to Americans trapped in Gaza that it could open at 9 a.m. local time. 

“We anticipate that the situation at the Rafah crossing will remain fluid and unpredictable and it is unclear whether, or for how long, travelers will be permitted to transit the crossing. If you assess it to be safe, you may wish to move closer to the Rafah border crossing – there may be very little notice if the crossing opens and it may only open for a limited time,” officials said. 

Egyptian security sources told Reuters that a ceasefire, needed to open the border, had been agreed to Monday. But representatives from both the Israeli government and Hamas denied that. 

Okal, Abuzayda, and their son traveled to the crossing Saturday in hopes of making it through to Egypt. Before dawn, they received news that the crossing could open for a five-hour window later in the day. But a lack of communication between Palestinian and Egyptian officials stymied efforts to open the crossing, The Washington Post reported.  

The family spent several hours waiting at the crossing Saturday with several hundred people, the Post reported. Among them was another American family from New Jersey and people from Canada, Sweden, Spain, and Norway. 

Trucks loaded with supplies for those in Gaza have been waiting for days at the Egyptian side of the crossing, as Palestinian hospitals warn that they are on the verge of collapse and those sheltering in U.N. facilities resort to drinking less than 1 liter of water per day, The Associated Press reported. 

Israeli officials have cut off the flow of fuel or any other supplies into Gaza, and people there are “trying to be very strategic” about when they use their cars in case of emergency, Okal told the Globe

Many Massachusetts elected officials are calling for the need to evacuate people safely from the region and get residents back to the states. 

“It is gutting that families, including Abood and Wafaa’s family, arrived at the Rafah crossing at the time advised by [the State Department] on Saturday and have not yet been able to cross. They have a one-year-old in their arms. It must be an imperative for President Biden and for all nations involved to safely evacuate Americans and save civilian lives,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley said in a statement to the Globe.

Harvard’s president responded once again to the backlash stoked after a letter from student groups blamed Israel for the week of violence that started with a surprise attack from Hamas. 

In a video posted to Harvard’s YouTube account, Claudine Gay condemned terrorist attacks and hate of anyone based on their religious views. But she also added that the university doesn’t tolerate the intimidation of students for expressing their beliefs, and said Harvard welcomes free expression — even “outrageous” views. 

“We can issue public pronouncements declaring the rightness of our own points of view and vilify those who disagree. Or we can choose to talk and to listen with care and humility, to seek deeper understanding, and to meet one another with compassion,” Gay said in the video.

Those who criticized the letter, penned by the Palestine Solidarity Committee and co-signed by more than 30 student groups, went as far as doxxing the students, and a conservative group drove around trucks with LED screens that featured the students’ pictures and called them anti-Semetic. Some Harvard alumni and CEOs have said they want the students blacklisted, and philanthropist couple Idan and Batia Ofer quit the Harvard Kennedy School executive board over the university’s response to the letter.

A group of 30 Salem parishioners who were visiting Israel last week scrambled to evacuate after Hamas attacked the country near the Gaza border.

On the day of the attacks, members of the Immaculate Conception Church in Salem arrived in Israel to see landmarks of Jesus’s life, The Boston Globe reports. They heard bombs and gunshots in the distance, but were told by their tour guide that they were safe. 

That was until Monday, when the group was in Bethlehem, located in the West Bank.

“We were advised by the tour group: ‘We’re going back to the hotel; you get 30 minutes to pack up and hop back on the bus,’” church member Bill Card told the Globe. “[That] was, I think, really when it hit home for me.”

It took the group days to get out of the war-torn country, and by Wednesday they were crossing the border to Jordan, where they then boarded a plane to Turkey. The parishioners arrived in Boston on Saturday.

Previous live updates can be found here.