Israeli Police Boost Jerusalem Forces Ahead of Right-wing March, Army Deploys Iron Dome

Some 3,000 officers prepare for Jerusalem Day events, including a planned visit by Kahanist lawmaker to the Temple Mount

Israeli police deployed in the Old City of Jerusalem, in April.
Israeli police deployed in the Old City of Jerusalem, in April.Credit: Mahmoud Illean/AP

Police will be deployed Sunday in great numbers in East Jerusalem and the Old City ahead of the right-wing Flag March in the afternoon and other events marking Jerusalem Day.

The army is preparing the Iron Dome defense system on the possibility that Hamas would try to disrupt the march by launching rockets and will also increase its forces in the south.

Marchers will enter the Old City via Damascus Gate and proceed to the Western Wall through the Muslim Quarter. Palestinians will face restrictions during the march. In past years, participants chanted anti-Arab slogans during this stage of the procession.

While the official endpoint is the Western Wall, the usual restrictions on Jews entering the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound above it will be lifted, despite concerns that it may inflame tensions. Hundreds of Jews are expected at the site Sunday.

The Israel Police’s Jerusalem District is on high alert, and some 3,000 officers are expected to secure the march and related events for Jerusalem Day, celebrating the establishment of Israeli control over East Jerusalem and the Old City following the 1967 Six-Day War.

Police reported some violence in the Old City Saturday, and defense officials said they had seen efforts on social media, particularly from Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, to encourage clashes with security forces in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Police deployments have also been increased in mixed Arab-Jewish cities across Israel, especially in Lod and Acre, where last year’s Flag March coincided with a spike in tensions that led to Israel’s Operation Guardian of the Walls in the Gaza Strip and riots by Arabs in Jews in mixed cities.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Saturday with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Jerusalem District commander Doron Turgeman to prepare for Sunday’s events.

The far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir has said he will go to the Temple Mount Sunday. The police are not expected to bar his visit, which is to include a police security detail. A final decision will be made early Sunday morning, following a situation assessment by Turjeman.

The police are preparing for the possibility that a number of Palestinians will spend Saturday night at Al-Aqsa with the goal of clashing with Israeli forces early Sunday morning, in a bid to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount later Sunday.

Police also anticipate potential violence by Jewish marchers and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem or the Old City during the march, which is expected to pass through Damascus Gate area at around 6 P.M.

Palestinian activists freed

Seven Palestinian activists placed in preventive detention ahead of Jerusalem Day and the Flag March were freed Friday.

Last week about 100 Palestinian activists from East Jerusalem were summoned for questioning by police, and some were arrested.

Jerusalem District Court Judge Ohad Gordon overturned on appeal the continued detention of the seven. He ordered their unconditional release, noting that their detention was preventive, rather than in response to a criminal offense.

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judges Zion Saharay and Amir Shaked had extended the detentions of several activists, after the police said they were suspected of committing offenses during the funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh two weeks ago.

In his ruling, Gordon wrote that he could not accept the argument that the detention was necessary to the investigation. “I do not take lightly the need to prevent riots and violent incidents, or the sensitivity that accompanies the [Flag] March, but attending to this need cannot be done by means of criminal arrests.”

Gordon also overturned a restraining order issued by the lower court barring Palestinian activist Mohammed Abu Hummus from the Old City Sunday. Abu Hummus was detained for questioning Wednesday, after police on patrol in East Jerusalem’s Isawiyah neighborhood saw a Palestinian flag in his car. When one officer opened the car door and confiscated the flag, Abu Hummus took an Israeli flag from the cruiser.

Last year, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem during the Flag March, prompting 11 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza, which coincided with interethnic riots throughout Israel.

The route of last year’s march was changed just before the procession began to avoid passing through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, due to fears of escalating violence. Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the decision in accordance with the Shin Bet security service and security officials, over opposition from the police.

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