Tensions High as Jewish Israelis Celebrate Jerusalem Day With Flag March
Tensions are high in Jerusalem in the hours before Sunday afternoon’s annual Jerusalem Day Flag March, during which marchers will enter the Old City via Damascus Gate and continue through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall, waving flags and singing patriotic songs. In the hours before the start of the march, young Jewish Israelis gathered at Damascus Gate, dancing and waving flags; some clashes reportedly broke out between the Jewish revelers and Palestinians at the gate. Palestinians have long viewed the parade as a provocation and clashes sometimes occur between marchers and Arab residents of the Old City. Meanwhile, over 2,000 Jewish pilgrims on Sunday during visiting hours set aside for non-Muslim visitors ascended the Temple Mount, the holiest site for Jews, which was part of Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Some of the pilgrims waved Israeli flags at the site and were removed. Jordan and the Palestinian Authority condemned Israel for allowing the Jews on the site, accusing Israel of “playing with fire.” Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday afternoon defended the march: “Flying the Israeli flag in the capital of Israel is self-evident; therefore, we have been crystal clear on the subject from the outset. I request that the participants celebrate responsibly and in a respectful manner.” Hamas has threatened to respond to the waving of Israeli flags on the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa compound with rockets and violence. Last year’s march was rerouted due to security concerns amid skyrocketing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. But despite changing the route, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem during the march, marking the start of an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which led to riots in mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel.