New York — Marchers chanted for the release of hostages in Gaza on Sunday at a New York City parade for Israel that drew thousands of people under heightened security.

The parade was held almost eight months after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel that triggered the war in Gaza. Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. About 100 hostages remain in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

Dubbed “Celebrate Israel,” the annual parade’s normally exuberant atmosphere was markedly toned down this year. People chanted “Bring them home now!” and waved Israeli flags as they marched up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for what this year was called “Israel Day on Fifth.”

Crowds of spectators and hundreds of police officers lined the route, and steel barricades were installed along the sidewalk. One sign read: “From the river to the sea, Hamas will cease to be.”

“Especially this year, after Oct. 7, it’s especially important to have this show of unity,” said Rena Orman, a Bronx native who took part in the parade as part of Mothers Against College Antisemitism. “Everybody wants [the] hostages back. Everyone wants this to end. No one is cheering for this. Everyone wants peace.”

Mark Treyger, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said earlier this week that the event would focus on solidarity, strength and resilience.

“This is not a mood of confetti and music,” Treyger said. “This is more of a mood of unwavering, ironclad solidarity with hostages to bring them home, and also our unwavering love and pride in our Jewish identity.”

The parade, in its 59th year, kicked off late Sunday morning with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams among the elected officials attending.

“I think it’s important — especially with what’s going on in the Middle East, in Israel with the war going on — to show our support and to show that the hostages aren’t forgotten and the country itself is not forgotten,” said participant Michael Garber of New Jersey.

New York Police Department officials employed measures typically used for high-profile events such as New Year’s Eve and July 4. That included drones, K-9 units, bike patrols, fencing and barriers and designated entry points for spectators along the parade route. Backpacks, large bags and coolers were prohibited, and spectators had to pass through metal detectors.

Police did not report any parade-related arrests by late Sunday afternoon. The parade represents the first large-scale Jewish event in the city since the war started, although there have been roughly 2,800 protests in the city, with about 1,300 of them related to the conflict, the Democrat said.

Over 36,430 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israel’s offensive, according to the Hamas-run, Gaza Health Ministry. Its count doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel blames Hamas for civilian deaths, accusing it of operating from dense residential areas.

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