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Alert in Jerusalem before the march of thousands of Israeli radicals through the Arab neighborhood | International

Jewish protesters, this Sunday in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Jewish protesters, this Sunday in the Old City of Jerusalem.AMMAR AWAD (REUTERS)

Israeli security forces are on high alert in Jerusalem ahead of the planned march this Sunday of tens of thousands of ultra-nationalist Jews through the Muslim quarter of the Old City, which is home to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The massive parade with Israeli flags, which each year commemorates the taking of East Jerusalem by the army in the Six Day War of 1967 to form the unique capital of Israel, is seen as a provocation by the Palestinians, who aspire to that part of the Holy City to be the capital of his future State.

The police have deployed more than 3,000 agents in the center of Jerusalem and have mobilized reinforcement battalions with hundreds of border policemen and reservists from that militarized body. The Armed Forces have placed batteries of the Iron Dome anti-missile shield around the city in the face of Hamas’s threat of launching reprisals if radical protesters break into the Al Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. A year ago, the Islamist movement’s militia fired a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip in the direction of Jerusalem, an armed action that triggered an open war that lasted for 11 days in the coastal enclave and in which more than 260 were killed. Palestinians, including 67 children, as well as 13 people in Israeli territory.

The first incidents have broken out at dawn this Sunday, after the first prayer of the day, when dozens of young Palestinians have thrown stones and firecrackers at hundreds of Israelis visiting the Temple Mount while waving Israeli flags, escorted by a large police contingent. The Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al Aqsa Mosque, whose doors were blocked by the security forces.

The Israeli Prime Minister, the ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett, has authorized the route of the march to the Wailing Wall (the main place of worship of Judaism, located at the foot of the Esplanade of the Mosques) through the Damascus Gate, the main access to the Arab neighborhood in the walled enclosure of the Old City, despite warnings from the United States and European and Arab countries. “The March of the Flags will continue its usual course, as has been the case for decades,” the head of government’s personal cabinet said in a statement on Friday, which also announced that Israeli visits to the Temple Mount (the Esplanade of the Mosques according to Jewish tradition) were not going to be restricted.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has called on Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and those living in Israel (20% of the population) to remain “in a state of high alert” and “rise in defense of Al Aqsa” following incidents in the Old City in April during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The cabinet of the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, also decreed an alert before the march of tens of thousands of Israeli radicals.

Some partners in the Israeli government coalition, which includes everything from ultra-conservatives to the anti-war left and an Arab party, have expressed concern that the March of Flags risks reigniting tension a year after the last conflict with the Palestinians in Gaza. For this reason they have demanded that their route be diverted. During the parade, the shops and premises where the protesters pass are closed, among whom it is common to hear slogans such as: “Death to the Arabs!”

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Two weeks ago, the funeral in Jerusalem of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, shot dead during an Israeli military intervention in the West Bank, was disrupted by a violent charge by security forces against the funeral procession. Since then the tension has been latent in the Holy City.

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