JERUSALEM (AP) — A group of Israeli ultra-nationalists said it was determined to move forward with a march of flags around predominantly Palestinian areas of Jerusalem’s Old City later Wednesday, sidelining the police ban on an event that was one of the triggers of last year’s Israel-Gaza war.
Israel Police said a large number of officers had been deployed around Jerusalem’s historic Old City, home to religious sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims, fearing clashes could further inflame an atmosphere already tense in the city during the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Palestinian activist groups said on Tuesday night they were “lifting the general state of alert” and warned against Israeli radicals staging a flag march in Jerusalem.
“At this stage, the police do not approve of the protest march under the requested route,” police said in a statement, without giving further details. They could not be contacted on Wednesday to find out whether the march would be banned entirely, or simply on the proposed route in front of Damascus Gate.
In a similar situation last May, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets towards Jerusalem as Israeli nationalists holding a flag march marched towards the Old City. The events sparked an 11-day war between Israel and the militant group Hamas that rules Gaza.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions have risen in recent weeks after a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, followed by military operations in the West Bank. On Monday, Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel for the first time in months, and Israel responded with airstrikes. Those days followed clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at a holy site in Jerusalem.
Noam Nisan, one of the organizers of the planned march, told Kan public radio that it would go ahead as planned on Wednesday. “A Jew with a flag in Jerusalem is not a provocation,” he said.
He said the protest was a response to buses that were stoned earlier this week on their way to the Western Wall, the holiest place for Jews to pray, located in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Associated Press