Hundreds of people gathered outside of the Syrian Mission to the United Nations to demand the safe return of the an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas in late June.
The rally, which brought together New York politicians, religious leaders, and more than 450 members of Zionist youth groups, focused on Syria's alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Mr. Shalit and the murder of the 17-year-old Israeli settler Eliyahu Asheri, who was kidnapped days after Mr. Shalit, and then murdered.
"Syria supports Hamas and encouraged the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. We are here to say that Syria is not immune," Rep. Jerrold Nadler said at the rally.
Not all of the protesters said they were confident in Mr. Shalit's safe return, but were unified in their conviction that Israel should refuse to negotiate with Hamas.
"Do we negotiate with terrorists?" the Jewish Community Relations Council's executive director, Michael Miller, called out to the crowd. "No," they shouted in response.
"We hope it will do something for him. We're praying for him," a camper from Young Judea's Camp Spout Lake, Ben Rosenfeld, 13, said.
But others were less optimistic. "I'm not sure that, in terms of a direct political response, there will be an effect," the International Affairs Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York's chairman, Stephen Wolnek, said after the rally.
The Syrian Mission denied any connection with the kidnapping. "This is actually a falsification of facts. Syria has nothing to do with this issue," the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, said.
"It's about the attempt on the Israeli side to hide the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and to hide also the unprecedented coercion exerted by the Israeli military machine," he said, calling Mr. Shalit a "war prisoner" and saying that the only way to resolve the issue is through the exchange of prisoners.
One of Hamas's political leaders, Khalid Meshal, is currently living in Damascus, Syria, and Israel has maintained that Syria is linked the kidnapping of Mr. Shalit.
The rally was organized by the Ad Hoc Coalition for Justice and initiated by the JCRC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and was one of several rallies held today across the world.