California Jewish Man Dies After Confrontation at Competing Protests Over Israel-Hamas War, Police Seek Help

Investigators called for the public’s help Tuesday in piecing together how a Jewish man died after hitting his head during competing protests in Southern California over the Hamas-Israel war.

Paul Kessler, 69, died in a Ventura County hospital Monday from head injuries he sustained during a confrontation with pro-Palestinian protesters at a busy intersection in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, on Sunday.

Because of conflicting witness statements, Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff asked for people with cellphone videos to come forward.

Fryhoff said deputies received contradictory statements from witnesses, including pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel demonstrators. 

“There was clearly an interaction between the two, but what that level of interaction was, is still unclear,” Fryhoff said.

One discrepancy is whether Kessler was intentionally struck in the head by the megaphone of a pro-Palestinian protester, he said.

A suspect has been identified and questioned, Fryhoff said. But the sheriff did not identify him and said he has been released. His home was also searched, Fryhoff said.

An autopsy has determined Kessler died from blunt-force head trauma, and his death has been classified as a homicide, authorities said. But that does not mean he was murdered, authorities stressed. The designation means only that Kessler died from the actions of another person, the Ventura County coroner said at Tuesday’s press conference with the sheriff. 

Fryhoff also said the investigation includes the possibility that Kessler’s death was a hate crime.

Tuesday marked the one-month mark of the horrific Israel-Hamas war raging in Israel’s Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million Palestinians.

The family of 8-year-old Emily Hand, an Irish-Israeli child initially reported as dead, was given new hope in recent days. 

The Irish embassy in Israel reported the little girl’s DNA was not found among victims of a deadly attack on Oct. 7 on the southern Israel kibbutz where Emily was visiting.

Israeli Defense Forces believe there is a “high possibility” the child is among hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas militants, her family told RTÉ News. 

The girl’s half-sister, Natalie, spoke to an Israeli television outlet, addressing her missing sibling. “I want to tell you that we are doing everything to get you home. We know you are being held hostage. We love you so much and miss you,” Natalie said. 

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