Right-wing pro-settler Israeli groups have scrapped a controversial march that was to take place this week in Jerusalem after police refused to authorise it, arguing that neither the format nor the timing of the event was suitable given the current levels of tension in Israel.
The so-called March of the Flags was due to take place on Thursday and proceed through flashpoint spots in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.
“Police refused to give us authorisation,” a spokesperson for one of the groups organising the march said, prompting a cancellation of the event.
News of its cancellation came as Khalil Hayya, a senior figure of the Palestinian armed group Hamas, warned the march could lead to new violence. It was not clear if the cancellation was linked to his remarks.
Israeli police said in a statement that “the current route at this time is not approved”.
However, police said they would review a petition to reschedule the event or to conduct it in a different manner.
“We warn the occupation [Israel] against letting the march approach East Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Thursday,” Hayya said. “We hope the message is clear so that Thursday doesn’t become [a new] May 10,” he said, referring to the start of last month’s 11-day fighting between Israel and Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip.
The fighting came after weeks of growing tension as Israeli security forces cracked down on peaceful protests against the expulsion of Palestinian families in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
Israeli forces also cracked down on protesters in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
In 11 days of fighting, Israeli air attacks and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people, according to the health ministry in Gaza.
At least 12 people, including two children, were killed in Israel as a result of rocket and other fire from armed groups in Gaza. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded in the attacks.
The Palestinian Deputy Governor of Jerusalem, Abdullah Siam, had also warned of a potential “explosion”.
Meanwhile, right-wing Israelis called on the government not to succumb to “Hamas threats” by cancelling the rally.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz had urged police not to let the march go ahead over concerns it could reignite fighting.
Thursday’s march was set to pass through the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Israeli security forces cracked down on Palestinians in May, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.