Flag-waving Jewish nationalists prepare to march in the middle of the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday in a parade that could re-ignite violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
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The annual Jerusalem procession celebrates Israel’s capture of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East War and draws thousands of cheers, chanting participants along 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 affected by Jewish development and settlement, that retains a strong Arab flavor.
Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip, fired rockets at Israel at the start of last year’s march, triggering an 11-day war that killed hundreds.
On Saturday, the group issued a statement calling on Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as Israel’s Arab minority – who are Palestinian by heritage and Israeli by citizenship – to “raise on Sunday to defend Jerusalem and al-Aqsa”. for”. Mosque.”
The day saw signs of turmoil, as Israeli police were stationed near the mosque and Muslim worshipers offered morning prayers.
A police spokesman said a small group of people had barricaded themselves inside the mosque and were pelting huge stones at police officers stationed outside. There were no reports of injuries.
But despite calls from some of his coalition partners to reconsider the march, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett refused to face any change.
“The flag parade will be conducted as usual as per the planned route, as has been the case for decades,” his office said on Friday, adding that it would review the situation regularly in the coming hours.
Jerusalem and its holy sites, revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians alike, lie at the center of decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel sees the whole of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern part as the capital of their future state. Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Western governments, sees all of modern-day Israel as an occupation.
Tension has been brewing in the city for weeks.
There were repeated clashes between Palestinian and Israeli police at the al-Aqsa compound in April during the holy month of Ramadan, with Muslims angered by the increasing number of Jewish visitors to the mosque.
Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount – a remnant of two ancient temples of their faith.
Sunday’s march is due to end at the Western Wall, a Jewish prayer site that sits beneath the al-Aqsa mosques.
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