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Southern Californians swept up in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Israeli soldiers stand on their tanks near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
Israeli soldiers stand on their tanks near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

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The growing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being felt in Southern California, where many people have strong ties to the region and travel back and forth.

Huntington Beach nursing student Eman Qaysia has been in the West Bank for over a month for her wedding to a man from the city of Hebron, her family's ancestral home. During her stay, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and fatally shot, their bodies found in a village north of the city. 

A couple weeks later, a Palestinian boy was beaten and burned to death in Jerusalem.  This set off an air campaign that's led to at least 85 Palestinian deaths.  Qaysia said she’s struggled watching this happen to her people.

Military officials say Israel struck more than 320 Hamas targets overnight, focusing on underground tunnel networks and rocket-launching sites. But the Palestinians say the strikes also hit a home and a beachside cafe, killing eight people at each of the locations, the Associated Press reports.

Israel has mobilized 20,000 reservists for a possible ground operation into Gaza.  A ground invasion could lead to heavier civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, according to AP.

"When you see kids dying and innocent, you do feel a little angry and like, why are they getting attacked?" Qaysia said.

Militants in Gaza continue their rocket fire at Israel. Four rockets have been launched toward Jerusalem, setting off air raid sirens across the city, AP reports.

In Jerusalem, Aaron Goldberg directs the Israel office for the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. He said it’s been tense in the city since a rocket landed two nights ago, about a mile and a half from his home.  

"As a father of four kids, it’s a pretty disquieting experience to have to wake up the kids in the middle of the night and bring them into the shelter to make sure everything is safe and explain to them exactly what’s going on," Goldberg said.

Goldberg said there must be hundreds of Californians in Israel right now, some for sight-seeing, some there to explore their Jewish identity. 

"You have families nervous about sending kids. Kids who are nervous about being here," Goldberg said. "On the flip side, you have people who are here and like Israelis the siren goes off, they try to find shelter or as quickly as possible.”

According to AP, no Israelis have been seriously harmed by the incoming rockets, as the "Iron Dome" defense system has intercepted at least 70 of the ones headed for major cities. The system is designed to allow the other missiles to fall in open areas.

Both Goldberg and Qaysia said they are trying to go on with daily life as best as possible, because that's the only option.

"I hope it ends soon but you can never tell when these things happen," Qaysia said. She plans to return to the U.S. with her new husband by October.

The story has been updated.