Far-right Israeli factions will march in East Jerusalem on Tuesday, risking inflaming tensions with Palestinians in the contested city and reigniting conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.
Palestinian groups have called for a “provocation” in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, calling the march a “Day of Rage” If the plan is implemented, Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, have warned of further bloodshed.
“We warn of the dangerous repercussions that may result from the occupying power’s intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the Flag March in occupied Jerusalem tomorrow,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Twitter.
An original march was re-routed to avoid the walled Old City’s Muslim Quarter on May 10 when tensions in Jerusalem led Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas to fire rockets towards the holy city, helping set off 11 days of deadly fighting.
Israeli rightists accused their government of caving into Hamas by changing its route. They rescheduled the procession after an Egyptian-mediated Gaza truce took hold.
The march, which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. (1530 GMT) on Tuesday, presents an immediate challenge to new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who entered office on Sunday, ending veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s record-long administration.
On Monday, Bennett’s internal security minister sanctioned the march.
A route adjustment or cancellation of the parade may expose Bennett’s patchwork alliance to charges of granting Hamas veto power over events in Jerusalem from Netanyahu, who is currently in opposition, and his right-wing friends.
“The time has come for Israel to threaten Hamas and not for Hamas to threaten Israel,” prominent far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Twitter.
An official route for the march has yet to be announced. Israeli media reported that police will allow participants to congregate outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate but will not let them cross through it to the Muslim Quarter, which has an overwhelmingly Palestinian population.
Palestinian protests were planned for 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) across the Gaza Strip, and Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction have called on Palestinians to flock to the Old City to counter the march.
“Tensions (are) rising again in Jerusalem at a very fragile & sensitive security & political time, when UN & Egypt are actively engaged in solidifying the ceasefire,” U.N. Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said on Twitter.
“Urge all relevant parties to act responsibly & avoid any provocations that could lead to another round of confrontation,” he said.
According to Israeli media, the Israeli military has made preparations for a possible escalation in Gaza over the march, while the US Embassy in Jerusalem barred its employees and their families from entering the Old City on Tuesday.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a state they hope to create in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
After taking East Jerusalem in a 1967 conflict, Israel annexed it in a move that has not received international recognition, and considers the entire city to be its capital.