Israel’s ultra-nationalist groups are allowed to hold the “flag march” on Tuesday, but will not cross the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to avoid the point of greatest friction between communities. Organizers and Police reached an agreement whereby the participants will be able to go to the Damascus Gate, the main access to the Muslim Quarter, to make their blue and white flags dance, but they will not be able to cross it and will have to go up to the Yaffa Gate to access to the walled enclosure and complete the route to the Wailing Wall, according to the Haaretz newspaper. “We are happy because the flags of Israel will be able to fly with pride over the Old City,” declared some organizers who called on “all citizens of the country to participate and praise Israeli heroism.”
This march commemorates the conquest of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war – where the holy places are located – and every year thousands of ultra-nationalists, national flag in hand, pass through the Damascus Gate and cross the main artery of the area. from the Old City to the Wall. Last year it was canceled due to the coronavirus and this year, on May 10, it was suspended at the last minute due to the strong tension in the holy city in the previous weeks. Moments after its cancellation, Hamas fired several rockets at Jerusalem and thus began the latest escalation of violence in Gaza.
On Thursday the ultranationalists, led by radical Religious Zionism deputy Itamar Ben Gvir, tried to march, but did not obtain police permission. Ben Gvir then approached the Damascus Gate and, surrounded by security forces, denounced that not having the right to cross the Muslim Quarter is “a defeat against Hamas and a victory for terrorism.” His very presence caused strong protests and the Police arrested 14 Palestinians in the subsequent clashes.
Hamas, with whom Israel maintains a fragile truce after eleven days of violence, said that “we are closely following the provocations and aggressions of the usurpers of Jerusalem.” A message in code of threat from some Islamists who, after three wars fighting to ease the blockade, in the last one fired rockets as a sign of solidarity with the situation in Jerusalem and in response to the police assaults on the Al Aqsa mosque , a whole red line.
Tuesday’s march will be one of the first problems facing the government of change led by Naftali Bennet, if it is finally ratified by parliament on Sunday. From the United States, the Joe Biden administration warned of the risk that this ultra-nationalist mobilization would reignite the conflict and called on Israel to avoid “provocations from the extreme right.”