The Israelis are bracing for possible unrest ahead of a planned march by Jewish ultranationalists through East Jerusalem that could trigger Palestinian protests and clashes with police just weeks after an 11-day war in Gaza.
The march poses an initial test for Israel’s fragile new government, which was sworn in on Sunday and includes parties from across the political spectrum, including a small Arab party.
The cancellation of the march would have opened Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other right-wing members of the coalition to intense criticism from those who would see it as a capitulation to the ruling Hamas militants in Gaza.
Hamas has called on the Palestinians to “resist” the march.
Mansour Abbas, whose small party is the first Arab faction to join a governing coalition, told a local radio station that he was opposed to any “provocation”, adding that “anyone who has seen and followed this parade knows what it is. its purpose “.
Police approved a route that will pass through the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, where Palestinian protesters clashed with police over restrictions on public gatherings during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April and May.
The unrest eventually spread to the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, a flashpoint shrine sacred to Jews and Muslims, and merged with protests over the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
Every year, Israeli ultranationalists wave blue and white flags and chant slogans as they march through the Damascus Gate into the crowded heart of the Muslim Quarter to celebrate the Israeli capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.
The parade was originally scheduled for May 10. When thousands of Jewish activists began the procession, the police ordered a change in route to avoid the Damascus Gate. Hamas militants in Gaza then launched a shower of rockets into Jerusalem, igniting the war that claimed more than 250 Palestinian lives and killed 13 people in Israel.
Deputy United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq said UN officials had urged all parties to avoid “provocations” to solidify the informal ceasefire that halted the Gaza war.
Omer Bar-Lev, the new cabinet minister overseeing the police, said security officials assured him they were ready for the march. It did not specify which route it would take.
Israeli media said the crowd would pass through the Damascus Gate but would not enter the Muslim Quarter. Hundreds of police will be deployed ahead of the march, which is scheduled to begin early in the evening.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war and considers the area, home to the city’s most sensitive religious sites, to be part of its capital. Conflicting claims to the holy city by Palestinians and Israelis lie at the heart of the conflict and have sparked many rounds of violence.
Hamas issued a statement calling on the Palestinians to show “courageous resistance” to the march. He urged people to gather in the streets of the Old City and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque to “stand up to the occupier and resist him by all means to stop his crimes and arrogance.”
Mohammad Shtayyeh, the prime minister of the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, also denounced the march, calling it “provocation and aggression against our people.”
Israeli television channel 13 said the army was on high alert in the occupied West Bank and along the Gaza front to prepare for possible violence.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism