Israel Bolsters Police Ahead of Right-wing March Through Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter

Israel Police worry that the march may trigger a response from the Gaza Strip; Far-right lawmaker Ben-Gvir expected to visit Temple Mount on Sunday

People wave Israeli flags during the Flag March in Jerusalem, Tuesday.
People wave Israeli flags during the Flag March in Jerusalem, last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel Police began preparations for the annual right-wing Flag March in Jerusalem, which will pass through the Old City's Muslim Quarter Sunday, despite concerns that such a move will inflame tensions.

Jerusalem Day festivities began on Thursday.

The American Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides called Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev on Thursday and shared his concerns regarding Sunday's Flag March. According to sources who are aware of the details of the conversation, Nides did not ask that the parade route be changed.

Bar-Lev assured Nides that he understands the American concerns and will closely follow the events. Bar-Lev also noted that the parade will pass on its usual route through the capital.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has ordered the force to be on high alert and plans to put all its active personnel on duty, with some 3,000 police officers expected to secure the march. Additionally, three companies will be called up from the Border Police reserves and other reserve forces will be placed on call.

Police said they also plan to deploy forces in other mixed Jewish-Arab cities as well as Jerusalem, where the march takes place. Around 100 people considered potential disruptors of the peace have been summoned for questioning, and will be arrested if evidence is found that they intend to disrupt the march.

A senior police source said the force has advised against capitulating to Hamas’ threats and recommended allowing the march to proceed along its usual route via the Old City’s Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter.

    But police are preparing for the possibility of rocket fire aimed at Jerusalem from the Gaza Strip and will tell the marchers to take shelter if that happens. Last year, the march was halted midway through due to rocket fire at Jerusalem.

    Jews will continue visiting the Temple Mount on Sunday, and police are evaluating the situation in light of an announcement by MK Itamar Ben-Gvir (Religious Zionism) that he will be among them.

    The police are not expected to bar Ben-Gvir from the Temple Mount, though a final decision will be made early Sunday morning, following a situation assessment by Jerusalem District Police Chief Doron Turjeman. According to the present plan, Ben-Gvir will be accompanied by a police security team.

    Temple Mount activists are urging their supporters to come to the mount en masse, while Palestinians have posted calls on social media urging Muslims to come to the mount at the same time to “defend” Al-Aqsa Mosque.

    Police said a recent magistrate’s court ruling that reciting the Shema prayer on the Temple Mount isn’t a crime doesn’t change the way visits to the mount are conducted.

    Wednesday morning, the Jerusalem District Court heard the police’s appeal to overturn that ruling.

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