**This story has been updated with information about a second vigil being planned.
Two local vigils are planned as violence continues in Israel and Gaza after a bloody incursion by Hamas.
A community vigil is planned for Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott. The JCC in Marblehead is cohosting the gathering.
Another event is planned for Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in Marblehead, cosponsored by the Marblehead Racial Justice Team the Task Force Against Disccrimination and others. The location is still being determined.
Hamas invaded Israel, killing hundreds of people and taking hostages, over the weekend.
In response, the Israeli military has imposed a complete lockdown and siege of Gaza, cutting off electricity, food, medical supplies and fuel to the crowded territory’s 2 million residents. Israel said the blockade was needed to try to secure the safe return of its civilians.
The death toll from several days of escalating violence has already surpassed 1,500 people, with more than 900 killed and 2,600 injured in Israel and at least 687 killed and 3,700 injured in Gaza thus far, according to health officials. The United Nations says over 187,000 Gazans have been displaced from their homes and are seeking shelter and humanitarian assistance.
Veterans School Principal Matt Fox said he addressed the crisis with students today.
“With the recent armed conflicts in the Middle East, this morning I included in our school-wide announcements a recognition that these profoundly tragic incidents have been very difficult for many families, including many of the adults in our building,” Fox wrote in an email to parents.
“I stressed that our guidance counselors were available throughout the day for any student who needed emotional support or a caring ear, and that the focus of our school day would remain on maintaining our academic work and routines,” Fox noted. “I also suggested that students could speak to the trusted adults in their homes too about their worries or fears.”
State Rep. Jenny Armini of Marblehead, a Democrat who previously worked in pro-Israel politics and served as a Congressional aide, strongly condemned Hamas for what she called a “vicious, unprovoked attack on Israel.”
“There is absolutely no possible justification for Hamas’s attack — none,” Armini said. “I am sickened by Hamas’ vicious, unprovoked attack on Israel. The taking of civilian hostages — children, the elderly — shows that Hamas has no serious intention of living peacefully beside Israel. They are a terrorist organization, and they will be treated like one. Sadly, that means innocent Palestinians will suffer along with Israelis.”
Armini continued: “I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only viable pathway to achieving a lasting peace. It is what will keep Israel safe and secure within recognized borders. It is what will give Palestinians their best chance to build a thriving homeland and economy.”
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Democrat of Salem, said he stands firmly with Israel and its right to defend itself and its citizens.
“I am fully confident President Biden will act decisively to assist the Israeli government with the military and intelligence support they need to eliminate the terrorist threat posed by Hamas,” Moulton said.
The U.S. provides approximately $3.8 billion annually in foreign military financing to Israel, its closest ally in the Middle East.
For the long term, Moulton said de-escalation and peace are the goals. But he noted that first, “It is Israel’s right to take the steps necessary to eradicate the terrorist threat it faces. There are hostages currently in imminent danger and Israelis haven’t really begun to grapple with the enormity of the death toll they’ve experienced.”
Moulton, a Marine veteran, said he knows firsthand the challenges of counterinsurgency operations. He expressed confidence the Israeli military could act decisively but also carefully against Hamas, with U.S. intelligence and logistical support.
Leigh Blander contributed reporting to this article.