Tensions high in Jerusalem as city nervously awaits Flag Day March

The march could provide a first security test for Israel’s new government

Natalie Lisbona
in Jerusalem
Tuesday 15 June 2021 14:21
<p>A Palestinian woman confronts Israeli security forces outside the Damascus gate in east Jerusalem</p>

A Palestinian woman confronts Israeli security forces outside the Damascus gate in east Jerusalem

Jerusalem was on high alert Tuesday ahead of a controversial march by right-wing Israeli groups and renewed calls for violence by Hamas.

The Jerusalem Flag Day March was due to go ahead in the early evening with warnings to all sides to avoid any potential trouble, which could provide an early headache for Israel’s new government, headed by Naftali Bennett.

The UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland urged “all relevant parties to act responsibly and avoid any provocations that could lead to another round of confrontation”.

The march has been rescheduled twice due to security concerns. The original 10 May march was cancelled when a rocket barrage was fired at Jerusalem from Gaza, igniting 11 days of fighting.

The annual parade marks the reunification of Jerusalem after the Israeli capture of East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War, but is considered provocative by Palestinians who regard the city as their religious and political capital.

The route normally starts at Damascus Gate, through to the Muslim quarter of the Old City and out to the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter. However due to security concerns the route was changed so the marchers will only pass the Damascus Gate and enter the Old City through the Jaffa Gate.

“We will march, thousands of us, with flags where we’re told. Anywhere we’re told not to march - we won’t march,” Matan Peleg, one of the march organisers told Israel’s Army Radio.

Regardless, Hamas has voiced its anger at the march taking place.

“The flags march is like an explosive that will cause a new campaign to protect Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to ignite,” Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif Qanou said.

Israeli media report that the military have bolstered Iron Dome batteries and beefed up troops in the West Bank. Meanwhile the police have deployed some extra 2,000 police officers to guard the marchers.

Nili Naouri, one of the marchers told The Independent: “It’s not enough to have Jewish Sovereignty over Jerusalem on paper, we must be able to apply it in practice. It is inconceivable to forbid Jews from waving their flag in the capital. Jerusalem is the only capital of the Jewish people.”

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