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Ahead of Flag March, Hezbollah chief says Al-Aqsa violation ‘will blow apart region’

Nasrallah warns Palestinian groups have pledged a coordinated ‘stark response’ to any provocations; US embassy bars workers from Old City during march

Hezbollah supporters wave  flags in front of a poster showing the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount painted on an Israeli built border wall as they mark the twenty second anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 25, 2000, in Kfar Kila village, Southern Lebanon, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
Hezbollah supporters wave flags in front of a poster showing the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount painted on an Israeli built border wall as they mark the twenty second anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 25, 2000, in Kfar Kila village, Southern Lebanon, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday warned that if Israel “violates” mosques on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem it will cause “an explosion in the region,” adding his threats to those of Palestinian terror groups over the contentious Jerusalem Day Flag March.

The Flag March generally attracts thousands of hardline Israeli nationalists who march through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to reach the Western Wall to mark the anniversary of the city’s unification in 1967. This year’s event will take place on Sunday.

In a speech to mark the anniversary of Israel’s May 25, 2000 withdrawal from its security zone in southern Lebanon, Nasrallah warned against any provocations in the coming days.

“I want to tell the enemy’s government… and those concerned with the regional situation. Any violation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock will blow apart the region,” Nasrallah said. “It will provoke all the Arab and Islamic peoples and every free person.”

The Dome of the Rock and the adjacent Al-Aqsa Mosque stand on the flashpoint Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest in Islam.

“They must know that attempting to aggress against Al-Aqsa and the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem may lead — no, will lead — to an explosion in the region,” he said.

Hezbollah fighters raise their hands as their leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link during a rally in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, April 29, 2022. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

“The Palestinian resistance factions as one have decided on a clear, stark response, that if it happens, there will be a strong, enormous response,” Nasrallah said. “If this happens, the resistance has pledged to respond. This could lead matters to a big explosion inside Palestine.”

Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip also warned Israel over the march.

Al-Mayadeen, a Lebanese network close to the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups, reported that Palestinian terror groups have not ruled out a “response” from Gaza should there be “provocations” during Sunday’s Flag March.

“The response to the provocations will be from all the arenas, including Gaza,” Al-Mayadeen said the terror groups passed on to Egyptian and international mediators.

“The resistance informed mediators that it will not allow settler thuggery in Jerusalem,” the agency said.

In a statement about the massive security preparations for the march, Israel Police stressed that the march participants will not be permitted to ascend the Temple Mount.

Israeli police patrol during a rescheduled flag march, June 15, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Officials fear a repeat of violence surrounding the yearly Jerusalem Day Flag March.

A major concern is rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the Kan public broadcaster reported, citing police plans that include arranging for the thousands of participants to be quickly evacuated if the country comes under attack. Last year the Hamas terror group fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem as the march was underway, forcing it to be stopped and rescheduled a month later.

The IDF has boosted its air defense systems against Gaza as a precaution, the Kan report said.

Also Wednesday, the US Embassy in Jerusalem issued a warning, barring its employees from entering the Old City at any time on Sunday.

The embassy said that US government employees may not be in the Old City after dark or on Fridays, may not use Damascus, Herod’s, and Lions’ Gate, and may not enter the Old City “at any time on Sunday, May 29.”

It also called on US citizens to remain vigilant and exercise caution. “The security environment is complex and can change quickly depending on the political situation and recent events.”

Jewish nationalists wave Israeli flags during the Flag March next to the Damascus gate, outside Jerusalem’s Old City, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Police are on high alert ahead of the nationalist march amid various threats from Hamas and fears of a repeat of last year’s event, during which rockets were fired at Jerusalem sparking an 11-day conflict.

Jerusalem has been on edge ahead of the parade, mainly due to tensions surrounding the Temple Mount holy site.

The parade’s route is fraught, with opponents seeing its procession through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter as a provocation, and supporters seeing it as an expression of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Following the announcement last week of the march route, Palestinian terror groups warned against allowing the event to go through.

Israel is sending messages to the Hamas terror group via Egypt and Qatar in hopes of keeping tensions from boiling over during a nationalist march through the Old City next week, Channel 13 News reported Tuesday.

Israel has argued in its messaging to Hamas that the route of the march is the same as it has been for years and should not be taken as a casus belli, the network reported.

It also warned that if Hamas shoots rockets or allows other groups to do so, Israel will be ready to hit back at the Gaza Strip, where the terror group is based.

According to Channel 13, the army believes the event can pass peacefully so long as there are no bouts of serious violence and all sides keep their cool.

Police have capped participation in the part of the march that goes through the Old City at 16,000 as a precaution against crushing following a deadly incident last year at a pilgrimage in the north of the country when 45 people died.

Also Wednesday, the IDF reportedly fired tear gas at Lebanese protestors who gathered at the border fence to mark the 2000 withdrawal.

The army said in a statement that there were “dozens of suspects in Lebanese territory, near the fence between Misgav Am and Metula. The suspects are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the fence.”

Unverified video shared on social media showed protesters hurling rocks and other objects over the border wall and into Israeli territory.

Lebanon’s Naharnet reported that Israeli forces fired tear gas at the demonstrators causing several to suffer injuries caused by the gas.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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