Hundreds of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have protested against a “provocative” march by Israeli far-right nationalists through occupied East Jerusalem.
Tuesday’s so-called “March of the Flags”, which marked the anniversary of Israel’s 1967 occupation of the city’s eastern part, came as tensions remain high over Israel’s planned forced displacement of Palestinian families from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
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The march posed a test for Israel’s fragile new government as well as the tenuous truce that ended last month’s 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza, which killed 256 Palestinians, including 66 children. At least 13 people in Israel, including two children, were killed as Palestinian armed groups in Gaza fired rockets towards Israel.
Ahead of the march, Israeli police forcibly removed dozens of Palestinians from outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate. At least 17 Palestinians were arrested and 33 others were wounded as Israeli police fired stun grenades in the surrounding areas of Damascus Gate.
Hundreds of Jewish ultranationalists participating in the march were heard chanting “Death to Arabs” in Hebrew. In another anti-Palestinian chant, they yelled: “May your village burn.”
Palestinians say similar chants are heard every year during the march.
In Gaza City, some demonstrators burned pictures of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as his recent successor, Naftali Bennett, while members of various Palestinian factions delivered speeches.
“Protesters marched through areas that have been brutally bombarded during the last war,” Al Jazeera’s Youmna al-Sayed, reporting from Gaza, said.
Ismael Radwan, an official with Hamas, the group that governs the Strip, said the Jerusalem march “provoked the feelings of our Palestinian people”.
“We hold the Zionist occupation fully responsible for the repercussions of its crimes,” Radwan said. “All options are open to respond to the crimes of the occupation,” he added.
Hamas gaining popularity
Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank had also called for a “Day of Rage” against the march. Last month, Israeli crackdowns on protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound left hundreds of Palestinians wounded.
“This is a provocation of our people and an aggression against our Jerusalem and our holy sites,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said of the march on Monday.
Meanwhile, a new poll released on Tuesday found a dramatic surge in Palestinian support for Hamas following last month’s assault on Gaza.
The scientific poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research also found plummeting support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is seen internationally as a partner for reviving the long-defunct peace process.
The poll found that 53 percent of Palestinians believe Hamas is “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people”, while only 14 percent prefer Abbas’s Fatah party.
The poll also found that 77 percent of Palestinians believe Hamas emerged as a winner, with nearly as many saying that it fought to defend Jerusalem and its holy sites, rather than as part of an internal struggle with Abbas’s Fatah party.
The pollsters held face-to-face surveys with 1,200 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza last week, with a 3 percentage point margin of error.