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Middle East crisis impacts on Bay area

7:45 PM, Nov 20, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- The crisis in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas is being felt by families in the Bay area with relatives and friends in the region. The instability in the Middle East also appears to be affecting prices at the pump.

"You have 90 seconds when the alarm sounds to find shelter," said Jack Ross, executive director of the Jewish Community Center and Federation, who returned this week from Israel. 

Ross shot home video during one of the air strikes and said he experienced firsthand Hama's airstrike on Tampa's sister city of Ashdod. 

"It's a random weapon, it's psychological terror, it's destructive and can be lethal if it finds its mark. Imagine playing Russian roulette. This is what it is," said Ross.

Israel's Iron Dome Defense System intercepts most of the missiles some find a target. Ross says Hamas has 3 million civilians locked down and terrorized.

Among the civilians are Ross's daughter who is studying in Jerusalem and his mother-in-law is in Ashdod.  

"My mother-in-law has no fear. My daughter no fear," he said.

Ross said they, like him, share the same belief Israel has a right to defend itself. 

"Israel has a right to exist. Israel will continue to exist."

But on the Palestinian side the feelings are very much the same for different reasons. 

University of Michigan student Suha Najjar has family in northern Gaza and said it's targeted heavily by Israel's airstrike.  

"This is not a war on military targets or combatants. This is on civilian population," Najjar said. "My friend that got blown away and his friends were not combatants. This is an offensive campaign not a defensive one."

While politicians try to ease the tension Najjar said the solution is simple. 

"For many Palestinians the number one problem is the occupation. When people are treated equally there won't be a problem anymore. There won't be a need for rockets."

Here in the U.S., fear of further conflict in the Middle East may be indirectly causing gas prices to go up.

A Mobile station on 4th Street and Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg increased the price for regular gas from $3.16 to $3.33 a gallon overnight and a RaceTrac nearby raised its price by 14 cents. 

Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, said, "Geopolitical events as much as weather has the potential to have immediate impact on retail gas prices in the U.S."

Laskoski said the recent price increase at the gas pump is connected to wholesale prices from Gulf Coast refineries that rose 15 cents since Nov. 13.

Meanwhile, crude oil prices dropped Tuesday afternoon by $2.20 a barrel. Laskoski said that may help prices go back down again, but just a bit.

Isabel Mascarenas

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