At 6 p.m. Israel time, the annual Jerusalem Flag March is set to commence amid rising tensions in the capital city. Many are calling the event the first test for the newly elected Israeli government under Naftali Bennett.
The Flag March is an annual event usually held on Jerusalem Day to celebrate Israeli control of the city. Though it was originally canceled this year due to escalating hostilities with Hamas, the Israeli government recently announced the event would take place as usual. Now, Hamas has once again threatened violence should the march take place, according to Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif Qanou in a statement he gave on Monday. “The flags march is like an explosive that will cause a new campaign to protect Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to ignite.”
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank also hinted at violence should the Jewish march incense the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Shtayyeh tweeted, “We warn of the dangerous repercussions that may result from the occupying Power’s intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the Flag March in occupied Jerusalem tomorrow, a provocation and aggression against our people, Jerusalem and its sanctities that must end.”
While a peaceful flag march may not seem controversial, the emotions that it stirs in Jerusalem can lead to serious consequences. For Jewish Israelis, the march is a symbol of the joy they feel at having sovereignty over the historic capital city after being in exile for over 2,000 years. For the Palestinians, the march is salt in the wound of what they see as the occupation of Jerusalem.
Accordingly, Israel increases its police force each year in Jerusalem in preparation for the march. This year, an additional 2,000 police have been deployed to the city in an effort to prevent further violence. “The situation in the Palestinian sphere is volatile and we are prepared for a renewed outbreak of fighting,” Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said late Monday.
Please continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for the new government, and for the safety of the Israeli security forces as they manage the situation on the ground.