Israeli nationalists to hold flag march as Palestinians protest on 'day of rage'

Jerusalem will witness two opposing rallies by Israelis and Palestinians on Tuesday

Israeli settlers sit on the rooftop of a house decorated with the Star of David in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem on May 15, 2021.  / AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND
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Right wing Israelis are holding a 'flag march' on Tuesday, which risks stoking tensions in Jerusalem less than a month after unrest in the city sparked an 11-day war in Gaza that killed more than 280 Palestinians, including in the occupied West Bank, and 12 people in Israel.

Despite warnings of a repeat of the violence, the march is due to take place two days after a new coalition government was sworn in, ending Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 year-long stint as Prime Minister.

Hamas has warned against the move, calling for an opposing event to be held in the vicinity of the Al Aqsa mosque, aiming to cause settlers "to miss their goals”.

Hamas’ spokesperson in Jerusalem Mohammad Hamadah said: “Let Tuesday be the day of mobilisation and unity towards the Al Aqsa mosque and a day of rage and challenge to the occupier.”

Hamas said Israelis would be “desecrating” the streets of Jerusalem by waving their flag.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the Israeli march a “provocation” and “aggression”.

Palestinian activist Issam Bakr told The National he had been coordinating with groups in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank to hold rallies to protest against the Israeli march.

Originally due to take place last Thursday, the flag march was cancelled for fear of sparking hostilities between Israel and Hamas after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire ended the fighting in Gaza.

On Friday, a new route for the march was announced after nationalists agreed with an Israeli police request not to enter the Old City of Jerusalem on their way to the Damascus Gate.

Human rights activist and member of the Coalition for Jerusalem, Haseeb Al Nashashibi, said the opposing demonstration was the “natural response” to the flag march.

"They expect to walk around Jerusalem carrying flags like they are strolling in a park," he said.

“By finally getting authorities to approve such a march, the Israelis are once again proving that the right-wing nationalist settler movement has sway over the government.

“This is happening at the same time that a 12-year-old settler can enter the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood with ease, while its original occupants are under military siege.”

Israeli soldiers have set up barricades around the neighbourhood which houses 12 Palestinian families contesting a looming legal decision which would displace them from their homes.

“Protesters are aware that there are risks of violent and potentially deadly confrontations with Israeli forces on Tuesday,” Mr Nashashibi said.

Israeli police spokesperson Wasim Bader told The National that efforts would be made to ensure the safety and security of "Arabs and Israelis".

"We are ready for anything. We are going to make our best to maintain the order and safety of all the residents in Jerusalem and we will make all our efforts to do that in the best way."

He said the Israeli police will be speaking to other security forces to conduct an assessment of Tuesday's events.

“I will be participating,” Mr Nashashibi said. "But I am 74 years old so I won't be on the front lines."