Far-right Israelis defy ban to hold Jerusalem rally

Violence in Jerusalem has prompted the UAE and Jordan to summon Israeli diplomats

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Police prevented far-right Israeli protesters from marching to occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday, amid heightened tensions in the contested city following days of violence.

Hundreds of nationalists waved Israeli flags as police officers blocked their path to Damascus Gate, a gathering point for Palestinians and a gateway to the Old City.

Before the demonstration, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that the security forces would prevent far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir from reaching Damascus Gate.

“I will not allow a political provocation by Ben-Gvir to endanger IDF [Israeli military] soldiers and Israel Police officers,” said the right-wing prime minister.

Mr Ben-Gvir joined protesters at the start point in West Jerusalem.

Police said they did not give organisers permission to hold the rally, due to the late notice.

The rally follows more than 170 people being wounded since Friday around Al Aqsa Mosque, according to Palestinian medics, the third holiest site in Islam which is also sacred to Jews.

Police have used rubber bullets, tear gas and batons against worshippers at the holy site, while the force said “a few” officers have been wounded by Palestinians throwing rocks and fireworks.

A number of passengers were hurt on Sunday when Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli buses travelling to the Old City, police said.

The Jerusalem flag rally comes a day after Israeli bombed Gaza for the first time in months, in response to militants firing a rocket from the Palestinian coastal enclave.

The unfolding violence has prompted the UAE and Jordan to summon Israeli diplomats in their capitals.

Israeli air strikes hit Gaza Strip after rockets fired from enclave

Israeli air strikes hit Gaza Strip after rockets fired from enclave

The US State Department on Tuesday said Washington was dispatching envoys to the region, to discuss “ending the cycle of violence in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”

At least 14 Palestinians have been killed this month by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, as the army carries out raids across the territory.

Such military action follows 14 people being killed in four attacks across Israel, which were perpetrated by Palestinians from the West Bank or Arab-Israelis in recent weeks.

Wednesday’s rally is akin to an annual parade held by Israeli nationalists to celebrate their military’s 1967 capture of East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Day parade last year followed weeks of Palestinian protest around East Jerusalem, during which hundreds of demonstrators were wounded.

Last year’s rally came to an abrupt end when sirens warned of incoming rocket fire from Gaza, marking the start of an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.

The recent spike in tensions comes as Jerusalem becomes the focal point for religious festivities. Muslims are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, Jews are marking the week-long Passover holiday, and Christians are on the cusp of more Easter events.

Earlier on Wednesday Jewish worshippers gathered at the Western Wall for a priestly blessing, a Passover tradition. The site stands below Al Asqa and is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

Jews are allowed to visit the Al Aqsa compound, also known as Temple Mount, but not to pray there.

Such access has continued during Ramadan but is expected to be halted for the final days of the Muslim holy month, in keeping with previous years.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 5:11 PM