Thousands of Israelis march through Jerusalem, some attacking Palestinians

Islamic authorities say more than 1,100 Israelis encroached on Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during provocative annual parade.

Thousands of Israelis have joined a march through occupied East Jerusalem, with some attacking Palestinians and shouting racist slogans, as part of an annual demonstration marking Israel’s occupation of the city.

Footage shared by local journalists on Wednesday showed young men and teenagers chanting, “Death to the Arabs” and “May your village burn” at the so-called “Flag March”.

The parade has come amid heightened tensions as Israel pushes on with its war on Gaza, which has killed more than 36,500 people, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian authorities.

The demonstrators danced and waved Israeli flags throughout the city.

The Jerusalem Waqf, the Islamic authority that oversees the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, said more than 1,100 Israelis encroached on the site, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount.

The AFP news agency published photos of Israeli demonstrators assaulting a Palestinian journalist in the Old City. Several Israeli outlets reported that Haaretz reporter Nir Hasson was also attacked.

Reporting from the Jordanian capital Amman, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said this year’s march appears to be more violent than in previous years.

“Almost as soon as the ultranationalist people arrived into occupied East Jerusalem, they started attacking Palestinians. Young kids were attacking older Palestinians – we’ve seen pictures of that,” Khan said.

“They were attacking shops; they were running into the shops. The Israeli police simply lost control. In fact, what they did was they asked the Palestinians to simply shutter their shops because they couldn’t control these people.”

According to Israeli media reports, Israel deployed 3,000 police officers to the march and urged demonstrators to “avoid any physical or verbal violence”.

AFP footage showed demonstrators holding signs rebuking the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the top United Nations court, which has ordered Israel to halt its assault in Rafah.

“The ICJ is corrupt, working with Hamas,” one sign read.

Far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attended the march and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “be strong” in an implicit criticism of a proposal for a truce deal to halt the war on Gaza.

“The Damascus Gate is ours. The Temple Mount is ours. And God willing complete victory is ours,” Ben-Gvir said, according to Times of Israel, referring to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – the third-holiest site in Islam.

Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and subsequently annexed it in 1980 in a move not recognised by the international community.

Al-Haram al-Sharif has remained under the management of the Jordan-appointed Waqf and only Muslims are allowed to pray at the compound.

However, Israel’s security forces often allow Israelis to raid the site. In past years, Israeli forces have also attacked worshippers inside Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israelis wave flags
Israelis wave flags as they participate in the annual Jerusalem Day march at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, June 5, 2024 [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

The second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising that saw years of protests and violent attacks, started in 2000 after Israeli politician Ariel Sharon made a visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hamas also cited Israeli violations at Al-Aqsa as one of the main reasons for its “Al-Aqsa Floods” attack against Israel on October 7, when fighters from Hamas led an attack that killed at least 1,139 people, mostly civilians, and seized about 250 others as captives.

On Wednesday, Hamas decried the Israeli parade in Jerusalem, calling it a “blatant aggression” against Arabs and Muslims.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the parade “re-asserts that Jerusalem is the core of the conflict”.

“Our people will not rest until the occupation is gone and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” he said in a statement.

Source: Al Jazeera