With Jerusalem Ablaze, Top Brass Warns Netanyahu Against Israeli Flag March

Yaniv Kubovich
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Religious Zionist youth celebrate during the Flag March outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, in 2019.
Religious Zionist youth celebrate during the Flag March outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, in 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Yaniv Kubovich

Security officials have warned politicians that holding Jerusalem Day events as usual could fan the flames in East Jerusalem and cause the violence that has erupted in the area in recent days to intensify.

In a situational assessment meeting with government officials, senior defense representatives asked to change the date of the traditional Jerusalem Day Flag March, or to at least limit the number of participants and change the route, so as not to pass through tense areas of the city.

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If Jews enter the Temple Mount on Monday, violence could spread to Gaza and the West Bank, the security officials said.

The police are expected to allow the Flag March, in which religious Zionist youth march through East Jerusalem with Israeli flags to mark the city's 1967 reunification, to take place on Monday, and to pass through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter on the way to Western Wall. According to Jerusalem District Police Chief Doron Turgeman, the Damascus Gate area and the main street between the gate and the Western Wall, Hagai Street, will be closed to Muslims from the afternoon until 7:30 P.M., and area residents will be directed to enter the Old City through other gates.

The police have not yet decided whether to allow Jews to enter the Temple Mount on Monday. In previous years they have, but considering the sensitive security situation, police may not permit Jews to enter the compound. A decision will be made on Monday morning based on an intelligence assessment.

The weekend saw heavy clashes between Palestinians and police in East Jerusalem. Saturday night was Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest night of Ramadan, which drew tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers to the Temple Mount. That night and Friday, over 200 Palestinians were injured mainly by sponge-tipped bullets and stun grenades in confrontations with police on the Temple Mount, at Damascus Gate and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The police said that 17 officers were hurt in the clashes. On Saturday, the police placed roadblocks on Route 1 in an attempt to prevent Muslim citizens of Israel from reaching the city for the holiday. The police later removed the roadblock after clashing with worshipers.

Amid the tension in Jerusalem, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on Saturday night, and landed in an open area. The IDF retaliated by attacking a Hamas military site. In addition, incendiary balloons launched from Gaza caused fires in open fields in southern Israel. On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians protested along the Gaza border fence with the against the events in East Jerusalem.

The Flag March, a tradition that began three decades ago, always passes along the main street in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. In the past, participants in the march have shouted racist comments and incited violence against Palestinian inhabitants. Hundreds of marchers chanted “death to Arabs” among other things, and sang offensive songs. Marchers have also damaged Palestinian property on their way.

Due to High Court of Justice petitions by the human rights group Ir Amim, and harsh criticism by the court's justices of the police – who they said treated marchers with undue restraint – organizers and the police increased their supervision of the parade in recent years. But the parade imposes restrictions on movement for Palestinian residents and the closing of certain streets and neighborhoods in the Muslim Quarter, and most Muslim business owners close their shops in the area.

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