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Middle East

Jerusalem prepares for controversial Israeli nationalist flag march through Muslim quarters

Image Credits: UnsplashImage Credits: Unsplash
  • The annual Israeli nationalist flag march in Jerusalem is a source of significant tension and has a history of inciting violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Approximately 3,000 police officers will be deployed to ensure safety, with several major roads closed during the event.
  • The parade route avoids the Temple Mount, a site of religious significance and a historical flashpoint for violence, but tensions remain high due to recent conflicts and political figures' involvement.

Jerusalem is bracing for the annual Israeli nationalist flag march, a highly contentious event that sees thousands of Jewish nationalists parading through the Old City. This tradition, which commemorates Israel's capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war, has been a flashpoint for violence and unrest, particularly between marchers and Palestinian residents.

The Jerusalem Day parade has a history of inciting violent clashes. In previous years, the event has seen anti-Arab hate speech, vandalism of Palestinian property, and physical confrontations. Despite these issues, the parade route for men was not altered in 2022, resulting in numerous injuries from clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as altercations with police. However, the 2021 parade, which occurred shortly after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, passed without major incidents.

This year, tensions are particularly high following the October 7 Hamas attack and the subsequent war in Gaza. Israeli far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has announced his participation in the event and has encouraged his supporters to join. Ben-Gvir, who is responsible for the police, has been a polarizing figure, and his involvement has added to the already charged atmosphere.

To ensure safety, approximately 3,000 police officers will be deployed in the Old City and surrounding areas on the day of the parade. Several major roads will be closed, and the police have urged participants and the public to follow their instructions, avoid any form of violence, and allow the event to proceed peacefully. "The police have urged participants and the public to adhere to their instructions, avoid any physical or verbal violence, and allow the event to proceed safely" .

The parade route notably avoids the Temple Mount, a site of immense religious and historical significance to both Jews and Muslims. Known to Palestinians as al-Haram al-Sharif and home to the al-Aqsa mosque, the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. It has long been a focal point for violence. Under a longstanding agreement, Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there. However, the increasing number of Jewish visitors, some of whom pray or are escorted by police, has fueled Palestinian fears that Israel intends to annex the area.

The streets of Jerusalem's Old City have been largely deserted since the outbreak of the recent war, with few tourists or pilgrims and many shops and restaurants closed. Access to the Temple Mount has also been restricted for Palestinian men over 55 and women over 50 since October. There has been no immediate comment from Palestinian authorities or the Jordanian Waqf, which administers the Muslim holy sites in the Old City, regarding the parade. In past years, Arab officials have been vocal in their opposition to the event.

As Jerusalem prepares for this year's flag march, the city remains on edge. The event's potential for violence underscores the deep-seated tensions and unresolved issues that continue to plague the region. The heavy police presence and road closures are a testament to the authorities' efforts to prevent clashes and ensure the safety of all involved.

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