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Jerusalem flag march draws tens of thousands; marchers assault Palestinians, journalists

Despite high tensions and a recent ceasefire with Islamic Jihad and Gaza, the march ended on Thursday night without significant incidents

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Tens of thousands of people participated in the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March on Thursday, a contentious event in which right-wing Jewish youth parade with Israeli flags through the Old City, including the Muslim Quarter.

Before the march reached Jerusalem’s Old City, clashes erupted between Jewish marchers and Palestinian residents. In one incident, verbal insults hurled by Jewish participants turned into pushing and physical assault against the Palestinians. One resident was knocked to the ground and briefly beaten; law enforcement intervened and dispersed the Palestinians involved.

Participants in the march also attacked journalists in the Old City, wounding three, including Haaretz correspondent Deiaa Haj Yahia. All were lightly wounded, received medical treatment at the scene and continued to work. Police removed the assailants from the area, and later arrested two suspects in the attack, one of them a minor, who was in possession of a knife.

In addition, photographers and correspondents reported several attacks by police on journalists. In one case, Haaretz photographer Emil Salman was attacked by a police officer while carrying out his work.

Salman said that while protesters were being cleared from Jerusalem’s Tunnels Road, he was removed from the area and shoved by one of the officers. He was released shortly after. Police claimed that Salman refused to show his identification, but Salman stated that he was not given the option of doing so while being pushed by the officers.

In another instance, an officer pushed CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman, whose arm was injured as a result. At the Damascus Gate in the Old City, an officer grabbed the neck of photojournalist Kobi Wolf.

Some of the march’s participants shouted racist and nationalist slogans during the parade, part of which passed through the Muslim Quarter. Hundreds were filmed shouting “Death to Arabs” and “A Jew is a soul, an Arab is the son of a whore” near the Damascus Gate. Earlier, groups of young Jewish men were filmed dancing and singing “May your village burn down.”

Despite high tensions and a recent ceasefire with Islamic Jihad and Gaza, the march ended on Thursday night without significant incidents. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, suggested that Israel’s alertness “proves the fear of the settlers,” saying that the extensive security measures taken by Israel for the march “only highlight the perceived weakness of the Zionist entity.”

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Yisrael Katz delivered a speech at the parade in which he threatened Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza, saying that any attempt to disrupt or harm the march would result in his assassination by Israel, “just like the fate of his associates in the Islamic Jihad.”

Hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators gathered near the Gaza-Israel border amid calls of Palestinian factions to protest the Jerusalem Flag March. Israeli security forces fired tear gas when the demonstrators approached the border.

Jerusalem Day is celebrated in Israel as the Hebrew anniversary of the country’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, after the eastern side of the holy city and the West Bank, which had been held by Jordan since 1948, were conquered by Israel.

In 2021, tensions in the city came to a head during Jerusalem Day, which coincided with the final days of Ramadan. That morning, clashes on the Temple Mount compound left more than 300 Palestinians wounded, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, prompting an Israeli decision to bar Jews from entering the holy site, one of several flashpoints in the city. This culminated in the Flag March, during which Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem, kicking off a major operation in Gaza and violence in mixed Jewish-Arab cities throughout Israel.

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