Israeli forces deployed tear gas and live ammunition against Palestinians who gathered in protest along the eastern border of the besieged Gaza Strip with Israel. This marked the response to a contentious ‘flag march’ held by far-right Israelis in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem, injuring several Palestinians. As per an Al Jazeera report, hundreds of Palestinians participated in the protest, voicing their opposition to the Israeli march and demanding a halt to Israeli assaults on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Reaction to the Flag March
Israeli authorities confirmed their forces opened fire following Palestinians throwing explosive devices at the barrier separating Israel and Gaza. Gazan resident, Osama Abu Qamar, stated his participation was an act against the “provocative” march in Jerusalem. He stated their struggle would continue in defense of their occupied lands and holy places.
Historical Tensions Rising
The flag march, an annual event commemorating the annexation of East Jerusalem, has previously resulted in violence. This year, there were fears that the event might spark renewed aggression, given a recent truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had just been agreed upon following four days of deadly conflict.
Continuing Protests Amid Ongoing Attacks
Huda al-Salibi, who attended the march with her family, expressed her distress over the continued Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. She pointed out the racially driven policies of the Israeli government, which she believed were encouraged by extremists like the National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Preventing Further Violence
Efforts were made by Israeli security forces to prevent violence during the flag march, recalling previous events that were characterized by Israeli attacks on Palestinians and anti-Arab chants. However, Hamas, the governing body of Gaza, cautioned that the flag parade could trigger further escalation in the region, calling on global and Arab governments to intervene.
Standing Against Occupation
Hamas spokesman Abd Allatif al-Qanou’ asserted their unwillingness to allow the Israeli occupation to extend its control over the Al-Aqsa Mosque, urging all Palestinians to join in protecting the compound. The Israeli government was accused of leveraging Jerusalem Unification Day to endorse and secure frequent incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli settlers, which al-Qanou’ deemed a flagrant violation of Islamic sanctities.
Mounting International Pressure
The international community supports a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Palestinians argue that the growing settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem by successive Israeli governments hinder the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.
Violence Marred Flag March
The controversial annual event, Jerusalem Flag March, experienced racist chants and conflicts with Palestinian residents. Critics suggest the rally intentionally incites Palestinians who are forced to shut their shops for the demonstration. Despite this, the march concluded without a significant incident.
Call for Route Diversion
In the past two years, the Biden administration requested that Israel reroute the march away from the Muslim Quarter. The previous Israeli government and Prime Minister Netanyahu, however, have rejected this request.
Incidents of Hate Speech and Violence
Flag March participants were involved in clashing with Palestinian locals and harassing journalists. They also expressed racist chants as they moved near the Damascus Gate before and during the rally on Thursday. Cabinet members, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, were among the marchers, which further legitimized the event. Some 3,000 police officers were deployed in and around the Old City to secure the march.
The Impact of the March
Participants in the Flag March were mostly religious teens who arrived by bus from various seminaries. The march took a charged turn as it moved through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, predominantly occupied by Palestinians. As a result of this, Palestinians were forced by the Israel Police to close their shops to allow for the demonstration.
Despite the numerous instances of violence and harassment by Jewish participants, the rally managed to conclude without a major incident. The annual parade to the Western Wall was intended to mark Israel’s reunification of East and West Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, but over the years, it has gained notoriety due to hate speech and violence by far-right Jewish participants towards Palestinians and their property.
Overall, these events have brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back into the international spotlight, raising questions about the path to lasting peace in the region.