The new Israeli government has approved a controversial march by far-right nationalist դեպի resettlement groups to the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem, a move that threatens to escalate tensions with the Palestinians hours after Benjamin Netanyahu ousted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Several Israeli right-wing groups are expected to take part in a so-called “Flag March” on Tuesday through the gates of the Old City of Damascus, its Muslim district, receiving warnings from Hamas, a group that controls the besieged Gaza Strip. in case of resumption of new operations.
The move comes as tensions continue to rise in East Jerusalem over Israeli-forced deportation of Palestinian families from Sheikh Arra.
It comes after a fragile ceasefire was maintained in the besieged Gaza Strip after an 11-day Israeli bombing of the enclave that killed 253 people, including 66 children. At least 13 Israelis have been killed by rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza amid escalating violence.
Palestinian factions have called for a “day of rage” against the march. Hundreds of Palestinians were injured in Israeli crackdowns on protesters in the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex last month.
“This is a provocation by our people – aggression against our Jerusalem, our holy places,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Stein.
After a meeting with the Israeli police chief and other security officials, the new inaugural Interior Minister, Omer Barl, approved the march, saying that the police were well prepared, according to a statement released by Israeli media.
«[Great] “Efforts are being made to maintain the delicate fabric of life and public safety,” Barl was quoted as saying.
It was not clear whether participants were allowed to enter the Muslim Quarter of the Old City on a route previously banned by Israeli police.
Due to the escalation of tension in Jerusalem, the unique last-minute march on May 10 changed.
Hamas has warned of a resumption of hostilities if it continues, with Israeli media reporting that the military is preparing for a possible escalation.
The US Embassy in Jerusalem has banned its staff and their families from entering the Old City on Tuesday “because of calls for a Jerusalem flag march and possible anti-Armenian demonstrations.”
The march is an immediate challenge for the Bennett administration, which was approved by a 60-59 vote in parliament on Sunday.
The rerouting or cancellation of the march could expose the Israeli government to accusations by Netanyahu, now in opposition, of his right-wing allies, of vetoing Hamas over the events in Jerusalem.
Assuming that the route could be adjusted, Deputy Interior Minister Joav Segalovich said that previous governments had stopped nationalists from visiting Muslim areas amid tensions.
“The main thing is to consider what is right now,” he told Israel’s Kan radio.
The formation of a bloc of right-wing, centrist, and left-wing parties, along with a desire to oust Netanyahu, has been of paramount importance to efforts to form a coalition since the March 23 election, Israel’s fourth in two years.
Minutes after meeting Bennett, 49, on his first full day in office, Netanyahu reiterated his promise to overthrow his government.
“It will happen sooner than you think,” Netanyahu, 71, who has held a record 12 years in office, said in a public address to lawmakers from his right-wing Likud party.
Any disagreement among its members that could threaten stability, the new Israeli government hopes to focus on internal reforms, the economy, to avoid policies toward the Palestinians.