New police minister: I trust the force, lessons were learnt

Ahead of flag march, Hamas warns of war over Israeli actions in Jerusalem

Days before contentious parade, terror group says ready to hit cities if Israel carries out ‘usual activities’; Israeli officials said to believe rocket fire unlikely

Participants in the Flag March near Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Participants in the Flag March near Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said that “striking all of Israel’s cities” is still an option for the terror group in response to Israeli actions in Jerusalem or other locations, the Kan public broadcaster reported Sunday.

The warning from Marzouk, a member of Hamas’s politburo, came just ahead of a contentious march by Jewish right-wing nationalists scheduled to be held through parts of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Marzouk cautioned that if “the enemy” carries out “its usual activities” in Jerusalem and other places, “our decision is already made that it is possible the war will return,” according to the report.

Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, September 18, 2014. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

The original parade, known as the flag march, was stopped short on May 10 by rocket fire from Hamas at Jerusalem, which sparked an 11-day bout of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups.

Since the fighting ended, Hamas has repeatedly warned it could reopen hostilities over developments in Jerusalem.

On Saturday Kan reported that security officials assessed Hamas would not respond to the repeated march with rocket fire but may try launching incendiary balloons from Gaza or initiate terror attacks in the West Bank.

Masked Hamas members apparently prepare incendiary balloons to be launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, May 8, 2021 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Police expect only a few thousand people to participate in Tuesday march, Kan said.

Final approval for the police operation to secure the march will be decided by newly installed Public Security Minister Omer Barlev on his first day on the job, Monday, pending confirmation of a new government the day before.

Speaking to Kan on Sunday, Barlev said that he trusts that Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai and the force’s leadership have taken note of events in recent weeks.

“According to regulations, it is the responsibility of the police to determine if and how to do the march. I trust the chief of police. I have no doubt that in light of the experience of the recent period, they learned the lessons,” Barlev said.

Labor MK Omer Barlev attends an election campaign event in Tel Aviv, January 23, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Barlev also commented on visits by Jews to the Temple Mount, another tinderbox subject in Jerusalem, saying he supports the right to do so, in keeping with established agreements.

“The position of principle is that Israelis can visit and move around any place in the country, certainly in Jerusalem and certainly in the area of the Temple Mount, according to the rules and agreements with the Jordanian Waqf,” he said referring to the religious body that administers the Temple Mount area under agreements with Jordan.

If Barlev doesn’t approve the march, the matter will be brought before the security cabinet, which had already previously let the police decide the fate of the march.

Israelis wave national flags during a Jerusalem Day march, in Jerusalem, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Organizers of the flag march said Friday that they reached an agreement with the police on the nationalist parade’s route. It will begin  on Hanevi’im Street and head toward Damascus Gate, where participants will dance with Israeli flags. The participants won’t enter through that Old City entrance, but instead will head toward Jaffa Gate, the organizers said in a statement. Participants will then march from Jaffa Gate toward the Western Wall through the Old City, organizers said.

There was no immediate statement from police confirming the details.

Police had initially refused to authorize the event, which was set to follow a path through the Old City’s Damascus Gate entrance and Muslim Quarter, due to concern regarding its potential to inflame tensions in the city and spark a fresh wave of unrest there, and potentially in other locations.

The Hamas terror group had warned of “consequences” if the march passed through Damascus Gate.

Far-right Religious Zionism party lawmaker MK Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, June 10, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Clashes broke out on Thursday between East Jerusalem protesters and Israel Police, as far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir marched to the flashpoint Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City. Ben Gvir waved an Israeli flag at the site, in what he said was a personal protest after police banned him from parading through the Muslim Quarter to reach the Temple Mount. Ben Gvir had tried to organize his parade as a protest to the postponement of the flag march to this week.

After Ben Gvir’s visit, and amid the rioting that followed, the Hamas military wing issued a statement saying that it was watching the developments closely.

The original May 10 flag march was held on Jerusalem Day, which came amid heightened tensions over planned evictions of Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and a police clampdown of rioting on the Temple Mount. It too been rerouted to avoid Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, following pressure from the US, which expressed concern that the parade could cause tensions to boil over.

The annual Jerusalem Day event sees thousands of nationalist Jews march through Muslim-majority parts of Jerusalem toward the Western Wall, in a show of sovereignty to mark the Hebrew anniversary of the city’s east side being captured by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967.

The route has long been deemed provocative by Israeli and Palestinian critics since local Arab proprietors are forced to shutter their stores so law enforcement can secure the Palestinian-majority area for the mainly nationalist Jewish revelers.

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