TEL AVIV—Thousands of Jewish nationalists will march through Jerusalem on Sunday, including through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, spurring Israeli security forces to brace for a new bout of violence.
Last year, Gaza-ruler Hamas fired a volley of rockets at Jerusalem during the annual march, sparking an 11-day war.
Hamas and other Palestinian groups have called for Palestinians to go to Jerusalem and oppose the march, and have threatened to renew rocket attacks on Israel. Nationalist Israeli-Jewish groups have framed the march as a show of Israeli sovereignty over the city in the face of opposition.
“All the options are on the table and we’re ready for any scenario,” said Hamas’s leader
in a speech Saturday in which he said that Palestinians in Jerusalem and Israel would be the “tip of the spear,” while militant factions in Gaza would be the “shield and sword” of Jerusalem.
The march has been an annual event for more than three decades to commemorate Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 war, which Israel sees as the unification of the city under its control. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem isn’t recognized by the international community and the United Nations considers it occupied territory.
The march has always been seen as a provocative event by Palestinians, with Israeli police closing shops in the Muslim quarter of the Old City to allow for the flag-bearing marchers to come through. Some marchers, most of whom are young religious nationalists from outside of Jerusalem, have chanted anti-Arab slogans and banged on shop doors. Palestinians also oppose the show of sovereignty because they want East Jerusalem to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.
Israeli police have sent thousands of officers to secure Sunday’s march and the military has conducted frequent raids in the West Bank to arrest militants ahead of it.
The recent tensions in Jerusalem have focused on control and access to the most sensitive holy site in the Old City. Muslims call the site the Noble Sanctuary, or the Al Aqsa Mosque, while Jews call the site the Temple Mount after the two ancient Jewish temples that once stood in the area.
On Sunday, police said 1,800 non-Muslims visited the site, including far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Givr, who was accompanied by a large group of supporters. Groups of young Palestinians barricaded inside the Al Aqsa mosque threw stones at the visitors and shot fireworks at the police guarding them. The police said a fight broke out between the Jewish visitors and Palestinians at the site, leading to a number of arrests. Both Israeli Jews and Palestinians were arrested.
A group of Jewish visitors were detained for violating visitation rules. Police didn’t specify what their violation was, but a number of Jewish visitors waved Israeli flags at the site.
Palestinian and Jewish youths clash at Damascus gate in Jerusalem.
Jewish nationalist groups had called for the flag march to pass through the holy site itself, but their request was denied by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Mr. Bennett has agreed to allow the march to pass through the Damascus gate, an entrance into the Old City that is a popular gathering place for Palestinians and where many violent incidents between Israelis and Palestinians have occurred in recent years.
Last year, former Israeli Prime Minister
changed the route of the march to avoid the Damascus Gate. Nonetheless, Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem during the march, citing clashes at the Al Aqsa Mosque earlier that morning as well as sensitive eviction cases against Palestinians in East Jerusalem as the reason.
The march on Sunday in Jerusalem comes amid increased wider tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. At least 20 Israelis have been killed since late March in attacks by Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel. In the same period, at least 35 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, including three under 18-years-old in the past week.
The Israeli military carried out airstrikes in Gaza in response to the Islamist militant group Hamas firing a rocket into the country from the Palestinian territory. The attack breaks months of quiet on the border and raises fears of a wider conflict. Photo: Ashraf Amra/Zuma Press (Published April 19, 2022)
—Fatima AbdulKarim contributed to this article.
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