By Erin Viner
“I expect that Hamas and the other (Islamist terror) factions are ready to do all they can to prevent this event, regardless of how much it costs us,” the head of the Hamas Department of Politics and Foreign Relations Bassem Naim told Reuters.
“The decision is in the hands of the Israelis and the international community. They can avoid a war and escalation if they stop this mad (march),” he said.
The annual flag march is a national holiday that celebrates Israel’s overwhelming victory during the 1967 Middle East war, which culminated in the liberation of then-Jordanian-held east Jerusalem where the ancient city of David and the Temple Mount are located. The Temple Mount is considered by the Jewish People as the holiest site in the world, also revered to Christians.
This year’s event will commemorate the 55th anniversary of the city’s reunification. Scores of Israelis traditionally join the parade while waving the national flag.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has defended a decision by defense officials including Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev to permit Sunday’s march along the traditional path, which organizers maintain is an established “status quo” route.
Naim insisted that the increasingly provocative Hamas would never accept such a determination.
Israel deems the whole of Jerusalem as its eternal capital and the center of the Jewish faith.
Palestinians demand the eastern section as a capital of a future state. Muslims, who built the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the ruins of the biblical temples refer to the contested area as Haram al Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, regarded as Islam’s third holiest place.
Gaza terror groups including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired a barrage of rockets into Israel last year as the 2021 march got underway, triggering the 11-day war, Operation Guardian of the Walls.
The current increasing cacophony of threats from the Gaza Strip over the projected 2022 route has raised the potential of a new conflict, although Naim said the next confrontation could even be expanded.
“Who said that the reaction will only be from Gaza? Perhaps you will have suicide bombers inside Jerusalem, I don’t know. Not ordered from us,” he claimed, referring to the recent surge of Arab/Palestinian terror attacks in Israel.
“The battle isn’t with Hamas alone, it is with the Palestinian people,” he declared.
Palestinian terrorist suicide bombings in Israeli cities were a hallmark of the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising) between 2000 and 2005 but were successfully curtailed after Israel’s construction of its security barrier with the West Bank.
Tensions with Palestinians have spiked since commemoration of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in April, with Jerusalem and the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound often the focal point of clashes with Israeli riot police working to maintain calm.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group has also threatened Israeli over the march. There will be “an explosion in the region” if Israel “violates” Muslim holy sites in the Old City, proclaimed Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah yesterday.
In related developments, the United States State Department has banned all American government employees and their families from entering the Old City at any time today (due to Islamic Friday prayers), as well as the 29 May date of the parade. They are also forbidden to enter the Old City after dark until at least Monday, or pass through the Damascus, Herod’s or and Lions’ Gates. While making no specific mention of the Jerusalem Day Flag March, the US Embassy statement said the ban is being imposed due to “ongoing tensions and potential security issues.”
Israeli security forces have already bolstered their presence and raised the alert level in Jerusalem to prevent the outbreak of attacks.
According to a statement obtained by TV7, Prime Minister Bennett today received an operational update on the police deployment ahead of the events, “particularly on the intelligence efforts and the reinforcement of units on the ground in order to allow Jerusalem Day to be celebrated and the flag parade to be held in a safe and orderly manner.”
Prime Minister Bennett also agreed that the march will “be held as usual according to the planned route, as it has been for decades; therefore, the parade will end at the Western Wall and will not go on the Temple Mount.”
The statement added that “Regular assessments and consultations will be held on the issue, on all levels, throughout the weekend and on Sunday.”