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Israeli Jews, Palestinians clash at Flag March in Jerusalem

Several clashes erupted between Israeli Jews and Palestinians as thousands of people marched from central Jerusalem to the Western Wall.

Israeli Jews and Palestinians clashed on Thursday at several locations in Jerusalem as thousands of Israelis paraded through the Old City under heavy security for the traditional far-right Flag March marking the unification of Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War.

Most of clashes occurred near the Old City's Damascus Gate, where police officers pushed Palestinians aside to let the marchers through. Haaretz reported that marchers were seen beating Palestinians and that several marchers called out "Death to Arabs" and "May your village burn down."

The traditional Flag March, which has become symbolic of religious Zionism, came just a week after a cease-fire was reached between Israel and the Islamic Jihad. The march departed from the intersection of King George and Agron Streets at the center of the city before splitting into two routes. Men entered the Old City via the Damascus Gate, marching through the Muslim Quarter, and women entered via the Jaffa Gate, marching through the Jewish Quarter, before meeting at the Western Wall Plaza. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was amid the marchers alongside other cabinet ministers. 

Skirmishes between Jews and Palestinians started at the Damascus Gate before the march began. Marchers tried to interrupt reporting by Sky News Arabia's correspondent. Police detained 10 activists of the Free Jerusalem group trying to block one of Jerusalem’s main traffic routes to prevent people from reaching the march. The road was reopened for traffic after about an hour. 

Also Thursday morning, Israeli police arrested a Hamas activist in the Ramallah region of the West Bank for planning a shooting attack during the march and attempting to purchase a rifle. In another incident, two Israeli Jews were attacked by rocks when passing through the east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. 

About 3,200 police officers were deployed across Jerusalem on Thursday, in addition to several special combat units in place since Wednesday. The IDF deployed anti-missile Iron Dome batteries in the north and south of Israel in case Palestinian groups decided to launch rockets. 

Senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawi issued a statement Wednesday warning saying, “The Zionist Flag March will not pass, and the response will inevitably come.” The Gaza-based Sons of Al-Zawari, which was behind earlier actions involving balloons carrying explosive devices into Israel, said it was planning to launch incendiary balloons and stage riots along the Gaza border to protest the march in Jerusalem. 

Some Palestinians gathered to waive Palestinian flags in Gaza on Thursday, including near the separation barrier with Israel, according to videos on Palestinian social media. 

In 2021, Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem just as the Flag March started, sparking several days of fighting between Israel and Gaza. This year, following the truce agreement between Israel and the Islamic Jihad, the chances of rocket fire from the strip as the march took place were evaluated as low.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shttayeh condemned the march on Thursday as an attempt by Israel to “impose false facts in Jerusalem.” Shttayeh added that the Palestinians will continue to “make great sacrifices on behalf of the Arabs and Muslims to defend the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.” 

Several Israeli lawmakers ascended the Temple Mount site Thursday morning, hours before the start of the march. Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf also visited the compound, as did Temple Mount activist Ayala Ben-Gvir, the wife of Ben-Gvir. Likud lawmaker David Bitan told Ynet Radio that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have banned his cabinet ministers from visiting the Temple Mount complex on Jerusalem Day this year to avoid provocations. Similarly, ultra-Orthodox Knesset member Moshe Gafni said that both from a security and a religious point of view, Israeli lawmakers should have avoided entering the site.

The Jerusalem Post reported that police also detained a man who brought a small Israel flag into the Temple Mount compound in violation of security regulations. A video from the scene showed the man carrying the flag while people around him sang Israel’s national anthem. The report said that three more Jewish visitors at the site also raised Israeli flags.

Jordan, the Emirates and the Palestinian Authority condemned the visit of Israeli lawmakers to the Temple Mount. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Israel “and its settler militias have no sovereignty over Jerusalem or its holy sites.” The Jordanian Foreign Ministry condemned the “storming” of Al-Aqsa Mosque by members of the Israeli government for "allowing the provocative and escalatory march in occupied Jerusalem.”

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