Israeli far-right groups are expected to participate in a so-called “March of the Flags” through the Damascus Gate of occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City and into its Muslim quarter on Tuesday, drawing warnings from Hamas of renewed hostilities should it proceed.
Heavily armed paramilitary border police and other forces patrolled the streets of the city, set up checkpoints, and blocked off roads throughout East Jerusalem. Iron barriers were placed outside the entrance to Damascus Gate, where Palestinians said they would gather to confront the Israelis.
Israel’s new government approved the controversial march by right-wing nationalists and pro-settler groups on Monday, a step that risks inflaming tensions with Palestinians, hours after Benjamin Netanyahu handed over power to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The Old City was quiet early Tuesday afternoon despite groups of settlers touring the area. Young men were being stopped by Israeli soldiers who checked their identification.
Young Palestinian men stood on street corners watching, and Palestinian shop owners started to close their businesses. Protests were expected against the march after midday prayers.
The march comes as tensions remain high in occupied East Jerusalem over Israel’s planned forced displacement of Palestinian families from the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, just north of the Old City.
It also comes as a fragile ceasefire is holding in the besieged Gaza Strip following Israel’s 11-day military bombardment of the enclave, which killed 253 people – including 66 children. At least 13 Israelis were killed by rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza during the escalation in violence.
Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank have called for a “Day of Rage” against the march. Last month, Israeli crackdowns on protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound left hundreds of Palestinians wounded.
“This is a provocation of our people and an aggression against our Jerusalem and our holy sites,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on the march.
The new Israeli government, composed of left-wing and right-wing components, officially took office on Sunday following a vote of 60 for and 59 against. One abstention was the decisive factor that ended the 12-year tenure of former PM Benjamin Netanyahu after four consecutive elections held since the year 2019.