Jerusalem on edge ahead of contentious Israeli flag march

29/5/2022 4:57:00 AM

Jerusalem on edge ahead of contentious Israeli flag march

JERUSALEM (AFP, REUTERS) - Flag-waving Israeli nationalists areset to march through the heart of the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday (May 29)in a parade that could re-ignite violence between Israelis and Palestinians.Some 3,000 policemen are to be deployed ahead of the march, due to begin at 4pm (9pm Singapore time).

The annual Jerusalem procession celebrates Israel's capture of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East war and draws thousands of cheering, chanting participants to its narrow, stone streets.But for Palestinians, the march is a blatant provocation and a violation of one of the few places in the city, increasingly hemmed in by Israeli development and settlement, which retains a strong Arab flavour.

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sg/w26r JERUSALEM (AFP, REUTERS) - Flag-waving Israeli nationalists are set to march through the heart of the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday (May 29) in a parade that could re-ignite violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Some 3,000 policemen are to be deployed ahead of the march, due to begin at 4pm (9pm Singapore time). For years, flag-waving Israeli nationalists have staged an annual march through Jerusalem to celebrate Israel's capture of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East war. The annual Jerusalem procession celebrates Israel's capture of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East war and draws thousands of cheering, chanting participants to its narrow, stone streets. The procession through the narrow streets of the Muslim quarter was always controversial, but legal efforts to ban the event failed, with supporters arguing that it was a legitimate festival marking an extraordinary moment in Jewish history. But for Palestinians, the march is a blatant provocation and a violation of one of the few places in the city, increasingly hemmed in by Israeli development and settlement, which retains a strong Arab flavour. Hamas significantly raised the stakes last year, firing rockets into Israel minutes after the 2021 march kicked off, triggering an 11-day war. Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, fired rockets into Israel at the start of last year's procession, triggering an 11-day war that left hundreds dead.

On Saturday, the group issued a statement calling for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, along with Israel's Arab minority, who are Palestinian by heritage and Israeli by citizenship,"to rise up on Sunday to defend Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque". "They can avoid a war and escalation if they stop this mad (march)," Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, told Reuters in Gaza this week. "They can avoid a war and escalation if they stop this mad (march)," Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, told Reuters in Gaza this week. But despite calls for a rethink of the march from some of his own coalition allies, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has so far refused to countenance any changes. "The flag parade will be held as usual according to the planned route, as it has been for decades," his office said on Friday, adding that it would review the situation regularly through the coming hours. For Hamas, it is also a religious affront, given the Old City is home to the Al Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, which Jews also revere as the Temple Mount - a vestige of their faith's two ancient temples. Jerusalem and its holy sites are revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians alike. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has defended a decision by security officials to let Sunday's procession enter Damascus Gate and pass through the Muslim quarter. Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital while Palestinians want the eastern section as capital of their future state. Some members of his coalition have urged him to rethink the route and suggested there might be a last-minute change of heart.

Hamas, deemed a terrorist organisation by Western governments, sees all of modern-day Israel as occupied. Tensions have been rising in the city for weeks. "He has only been in office for a year and it would make him look weak," said the diplomat, who declined to be named. "He has only been in office for a year and it would make him look weak," said the diplomat, who declined to be named. Repeated clashes took place between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Al-Aqsa compound in April, during the holy month of Ramadan, with Muslims angered by rising numbers of Jewish visitors to the mosque esplanade. Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam. Hamas sees all of modern-day Israel as occupied. It is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount - a vestige of their faith's two ancient temples. "For Israel, Jerusalem is off the table, for the Palestinians it is the table.

Sunday's march is due to culminate at the Western Wall, a Jewish prayer site that sits below the Al-Aqsa mosques. It is their Alamo," said Mr Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer and campaigner for Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem. More On This Topic .