Hamas calls on Palestinians to stop Israeli victory parade in Jerusalem

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, called on Palestinians on Wednesday to oppose a flag-waving parade planned by Jewish nationalists on the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Hamas’ comments added to already rising tensions ahead of Thursday’s march, threatening to reignite fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, just days after a ceasefire took effect. Two years ago, an 11-day war broke out between Israel and Hamas during the annual parade.

While Hamas stayed out of the latest round of fighting, officials from the ruling Islamic militant group called on Palestinians to resist Thursday’s march.

“We ask the people of Jerusalem to mobilize the masses to oppose tomorrow’s parade of flags in Jerusalem,” said Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas official in Gaza.

Hamas also urged Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and inside Israel to “confront the occupation” and said it would hold demonstrations with Palestinian flags along Gaza’s heavily fortified border with Israel.

The march is for “Jerusalem Day,” the annual celebration of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites, in the 1967 Middle East war.

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Israel regards the entire city as its eternal capital. However, the international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, and the Palestinians claim that the area is the capital of a future state.

In his Jerusalem Day speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel had broken “new horizons” since the occupation of East Jerusalem.

“We are committed to keeping Jerusalem safe, ensuring its prosperity and continuing its momentum,” he said. “We also do this against all the threats around us.”

Thousands of Israeli nationalists take part in the parade each year, waving blue and white Israeli flags and singing songs as they walk through the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jews to pray.

The Israelis describe the parade as a festive event. But in recent years some of the marchers have been marred by racist anti-Arab chants and violence against local Palestinians.

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Adding to the inflammable atmosphere is the fact that a large number of Jews are expected to visit Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site early Thursday before the parade.

The hilltop is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, home to biblical Jewish temples and the holiest site in Judaism. The Palestinians call it the Noble Sanctuary, and today it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

Under long-standing agreements, Jews are allowed to visit the building but are not allowed to pray there. But an increase in the number of such visits in recent years, as well as scenes of some Jews praying silently, have raised concerns among Palestinians that Israel is trying to change the status quo, which Israel denies.

Competing claims to the site are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and often erupt into violence.

Major Yoram Segal, a senior Jerusalem police official, said police would deploy about 2,500 officers on Thursday to ensure the day passed without violence.

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“We will deal hard with anyone who tries to disturb the peace,” he told reporters.

The march came less than a week after Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza signed a ceasefire that ended five days of heavy fighting.

Hamas, Gaza’s de facto government responsible for the fate of the territory’s 2.3 million residents, has stayed out of the fighting, while Israel has avoided attacking the militant group.

Reham Owda, an independent Gaza analyst, said neither side appeared interested in resuming cross-border violence.

“No one is interested in a violent escalation,” he said, but he said the march could trigger a “limited, symbolic” rocket launch, which in turn could trigger Israeli airstrikes in retaliation.

If violence breaks out in Jerusalem, Hamas may jump into the fray, just as it did two years ago.

“The resistance is ready to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque and prevent the Judaization of Jerusalem,” al-Masri said.


Associated Press writer Josef Federman contributed to this report in Jerusalem.

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/hamas-calls-palestinians-confront-israeli-victory-parade-jerusalem-99391941