Thousands of Israelis took part in a march on Tuesday (15) in East Jerusalem. The event, accompanied by a large contingent of police, threatened to rekindle tensions with the Palestinians less than a month after the ceasefire that ended a conflict with hundreds of dead and wounded.
Dancing and chanting phrases such as “the people of Israel live” – and, although less often, “died to the Arabs” – the crowd of Jews consisting of clerics, nationalists and far-right supporters carried Israeli flags and filled the square in front of the Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to the old city.
Before and during the march, agents mounted on horses and equipped with shields and batons coordinated the departure of Palestinians from the area, traditionally a meeting point, but this did not prevent demonstrations of hostilities.
“Take a good look at our flag. Live and suffer,” shouted one of the protesters, a megaphone in one hand and a cigar in the other, at Palestinian traders on the other side of police barriers in East Jerusalem.
Sitting on a bench beyond the police cordon, Palestinian Khalil Mitwani, 50, said of the protesters: “They are causing a big problem in Jerusalem. All the people here want peace. Why stir up trouble here?
The restrictions on mobility, however, also displeased the nationalists. “Jerusalem is for all religions, but Jerusalem is in Israel. And in Israel, we must be able to go wherever we want with our flag,” Doron Avrahami, 50, one of the demonstrators, told the news agency. Reuters.
Viewing the march as a provocation, the Palestinians called for protests in Gaza and in areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The so-called “day of fury” brings up new memories of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police on the eve of the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“We warn of the dangerous repercussions that could result from the intention of the occupying power to allow extremist Israeli settlers to lead the flag march in occupied Jerusalem,” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.
Before the nationalists reached the Damascus Gate, which also gives access to the main Muslim quarter of the Old City, thousands of Palestinians gathered nearby and at least 27 were injured in clashes with Israeli security forces. , according to information from the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Israeli firefighters said hours before the march, incendiary balloons fired from Gaza set off several fires in Jewish community camps near the border with the Palestinian enclave. Such incidents had not been recorded since the ceasefire agreement of May 20.
Hamas, a faction considered terrorist by Israel, the United States and the European Union and one of the protagonists of the region’s worst conflict since 2014, warned of the danger of further hostilities during the march. The statement was seen as a test of the courage of the new Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s successor, who spent 12 years in power, heads a far-right party whose religious base could rage if the march were subject to a change of course or a further postponement.
The flag march was originally scheduled for May 10 as part of the Jerusalem Day festivities, when Israel celebrates the capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. Just before its start, however, the march was diverted from the Damascus Gate, but the action was not enough to deter Hamas from launching rockets at Jerusalem, marking the start of the most recent conflict with Israel.
“Tensions are rising again in Jerusalem at a very fragile and sensitive political and security moment, as the UN and Egypt are actively engaged in consolidating the ceasefire,” said Tor Wennesland, United Nations envoy. United for the Middle East, in a message on Twitter.
The diplomat urged all parties to “act responsibly and avoid any provocation that could lead to a new round of clashes.”
Jerusalem is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the one hand, Israel claims the entire city, including its eastern sector captured in the 1967 war, as its capital. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are seeking to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.