PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The conflict is escalating in the Middle East as Israel moves ground forces into the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Palestinian advocates clash with Israeli backers at a rally on Friday.
Organizers with Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights distributed information to a crowd about the background of the violence occurring, as well as statistics on deaths and injuries that have happened because of the conflict.
The group's Chair, Bob Shaible, believes Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrongly targeting Hamas for the kidnapping and killing of 3 Israeli youths in West Bank, leading to the invasion of Gaza.
"Palestinians are being assaulted right now in an attack that didn't need to happen because we know that Mr. Netanyahu knew within 2 days that Hamas had nothing to do with that," Shaible said.
Israel backer Geoffrey Dreikman believes, however, that Hamas is the problem.
"Hamas is a terrorist organization, " said Dreikman. "Hamas is murderers."
In a shouting match with Dreikman, a Palestinian advocate said that Israel has taken land and innocent lives from Palestinians.
"You bombed the schools. You bombed the housing."
Dreikman said, however, Israel gave Palestinians land and opportunity.
"We gave them everything," Dreikman said, "And I'm going to keep bombing."
President Obama said today that the United States supports Israel's right to defend itself, if the Palestinian militant group Hamas continues to fire rockets from Gaza into Israel.
"This morning I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel about the situation in Gaza. We discussed Israel's military operation in Gaza, including its efforts to stop the threat of terrorist infiltration through tunnels into Israel. I reaffirmed my strong support for Israel's right to defend itself," the President said. "No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders or terrorists tunneling into its territory."
The Israeli military released video of its soldiers engaging Palestinian fighters inside the Gaza Strip on Friday as the death toll climbs to nearly 270 Palestinians and two Israelis killed in the ten-day conflict.
At the rally, Amos Libby of Portland said he's been teaching English in West Bank for the last 5 weeks and saw the violence first hand.
"I witnessed every day during this push against Hamas essentially an invasion of a residential area that seemed to me more designed to collectively punish and intimidate a population than to achieve a strategic goal of finding the people that had taken and murdered those children," Libby said.
Libby believes it's impossible for the Israeli military to target Hamas when there is no state infrastructure separating and supporting civilians.