The Israeli minister of military affairs has expressed opposition to holding the so-called Flag March organized by right-wing groups through Jerusalem al-Quds' Old City, fearing renewed tensions with the Palestinians.
Benny Gantz made the remarks on Saturday following a meeting with the military and police chiefs, the attorney general and other top security officials of the occupying regime.
Gantz said in a statement that he had “agreed that the Flag March must not be held in any capacity that would require special security arrangements, or could disturb the peace or the current policy practices."
The minister also noted that he had “emphasized to all those involved that it is necessary to adjust the plans and act responsibly, and said that given the series of events that is expected, it is necessary to operate with political, security and civilian sensitivity."
The controversial parade is expected to pass through the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City – a flashpoint of tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters – and pass through the Arab Quarter on the way to the Western Wall on Thursday.
The rally was scheduled for the so-called Jerusalem Day last month, but it was diverted due to security concerns.
The deadly confrontations in al-Quds followed violent Israeli raids on worshipers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the regime’s plans to force a number of Palestinian families out of their homes at the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Tel Aviv also launched a bombing campaign against the besieged Gaza Strip on May 10, killing at leas 260 Palestinians, including 66 children and 39 women, and injuring 1948 others.
Apparently caught off guard by unprecedented rocket barrages from Gaza, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire on May 21, which Palestinian resistance groups accepted with Egyptian mediation.
In response to Gantz’s statement, Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, called the minister “cowardly,” urging Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and public security minister Amir Ohana to announce that the march would be held as planned.
Hamas warns of ‘consequences’
However, the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement warned of “consequences” if the march passes through the Damascus Gate.
Muhammad Hamadeh, Hamas spokesperson in al-Quds, called on Palestinians to arrive at the al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday, when the march is supposedly set to take place, to “protect it from the malice of Zionism and their schemes.”
“We call on our people to hold mass protests at al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday,” he said in a statement.
Additionally, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar pledged to “burn Israel to the ground” if al-Aqsa is threatened again.
The Islamic Jihad movement said the parade would be seen as “hostile actions against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian land.”
It further urged Palestinians to “increase presence at al-Aqsa and to confront any attempt of breaching it.”
Israeli politicians denounce march
Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz attacked Netanyahu for trying to “burn down” Israel “on his way out of Balfour,” referring to the street in al-Quds, where the premier’s official residence is located.
“If Netanyahu and Smotrich reignite Jerusalem next week, there will be no more doubt about the motive and goal,” he said. “Netanyahu has lost it, and is turning out to be a real danger to the security of Israeli citizens.”
Meretz lawmaker Issawi Frej said, “This is a provocation that looks like an attempt to reignite violence in our region, perhaps with the hope that it will serve certain political interests.”
Ahmad Tibi, chairman of the Joint List faction, announced that his party has sent a letter to Ohana and police commissioner Kobi Shabtai, urging them not to allow “a march of hatred titled a flag march.”
He also warned that the planned rally poses a “great danger of violence.”
Similarly, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak said the march “appears like a clumsy attempt to reignite violence during a sensitive time.”
Yesh Atid party lawmaker Ram Ben-Barak stressed that the parade was an attempt to reignite the region and thwart plans to swear in a new coalition that is trying to oust Netanyahu.
“We are at the beginning of difficult days in which a lot of pressure and attempts will be made to thwart the change government, but in the end, a new era will begin here,” he said.
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli told Israel’s Channel 12 TV that “the whole drama we saw because of provocations in Jerusalem only just calmed down, it would be blatantly irresponsible to allow it again.”
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