Tension in Jerusalem ahead of Israeli ‘flag march’

Thousands of Jews are expected in Jerusalem on Thursday for a traditional “flag march” of a nationalist demonstration over Israel’s annexation of the holy city’s eastern part in 1967 and regularly plagued by violence.

The march, which is scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. (1:00 a.m. GMT), is one of demonstrations organized by Israel on the occasion of “Yom Yerushalayim” (“Day of Jerusalem” in Hebrew). The “reunification” of the city following the annexation and occupation of its Palestinian part following the 1967 Arab–Israeli War.

The United Nations does not recognize Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, which it considers “illegal” under international law.

Again this year, the march is taking place in a context of much greater tension, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict already causing nearly 200 deaths since the start of the year, including 35 during the five-day war between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed forces. Are. Groups in the Gaza Strip from 9 to 13 May.

A day earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of “a wonderful day to celebrate the miracle of our return to our capital for eternity”, while Nabil Abu Roudina, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Warned against “their insistence in organizing”. The inflammatory flag march”, according to him, is evidence of “the Israeli government’s acquiescence to the ideas of Jewish extremists”.

In the early afternoon, in Al-Wad Street, one of the main streets of the Old City, where shops were closed, Israeli police were deployed in force.

“The police tell us: If you want to keep your shop open, you can, but we are not responsible for any damage,” 27-year-old Palestinian shopkeeper Muhammad Abu Sebih told AFP.

– “hazard” –

The marchers “are a menace, they knock on the doors of shops and our homes”, says 72-year-old Abu al-Abed, with only one thing on his mind: “to go home”. [lui],

The march, whose traditional route runs through the Old City in East Jerusalem, is supposed to end at the Wailing Wall, located below the Esplanade of Mosques, Islam’s third holiest site.

The esplanade is built on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Despite the prohibition of the rabbinate, according to which Jews do not have the right to go to the Temple Mount, some people still go there in an increasing way over the years. Ultranationalists sometimes take the opportunity to pray there secretly, which the Palestinians denounce as “provocation”.

Hamas, the ruling Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza, on Wednesday condemned the “Zionist occupation campaign against our people in occupied Jerusalem under the pretext of providing security for the flag march”.

Hamas also condemned an Israeli bill aimed at banning the public display of the Palestinian flag, which parliament agreed to debate on Wednesday.

– “Excitement” –

Jordan’s foreign minister warned of the risks of “destabilizing the situation” because of the Israeli decision to authorize a “provocative” march […] in occupied Jerusalem”.

In 2021, on the scheduled day of the march and following Israeli-Palestinian violence in East Jerusalem, Hamas launched a salvo of rockets at Israel in a prelude to an 11-day war between the two camps.

In 2022, clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, in which at least 79 were injured.

This year, the Israeli police announced that they had deployed 2,500 men to Jerusalem to ensure public order.

Before noon, as usual, several dozen Jewish Muslims walked under police protection toward mosques after morning prayers, according to images broadcast by Israeli television.

For 34-year-old Tom Nissanani, an Israeli campaigner for the site visited by Jewish pilgrims and who plans to participate in the march, Jerusalem “is our capital, we must show it, rejoice in it and fight for it.” “.

Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said, “I am happy to see thousands of people coming to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem to celebrate.”

In contrast, an Israeli peace group was giving flowers to Arab shopkeepers in the Old City to “support” them and protest the closure of their shops.

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