The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group claimed victory after an ultranationalist march in Jerusalem was held under heavy Israeli security presence, as Palestinians launched arson attacks and rioted along the border between Israel and the coastal enclave.
The march, attended by several thousand nationalist Jews, was rescheduled from Jerusalem Day, March 10, when it was cut short due to Hamas rocket fire that targeted the city, setting off 11 days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
“The brave positions and decisions of the Palestinian resistance forced the Israeli occupation to change the path of the route away from Al-Aqsa mosque, change the civil air routes and beef up the deployment of the Iron Dome,” the terror group said in a statement.
It also claimed to have established a “new formula of deterrence” vis-a-vis Israel.
In the run-up to the march, Israel took a number of measures to beef up security, including having 2,000 police officers secure the parade in Jerusalem, sending reinforcements to the West Bank and deploying Iron Dome missile defense batteries, including reportedly near the capital. Flight trackers showed air traffic to and from Ben Gurion Airport was being rerouted northward further away from Gaza to avoid any potential rocket fire.
“The operational plan proved itself and led to a successful end of the incident,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev was quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster after meeting with top police officers following the march.
Police said that 17 people were arrested in clashes between cops and Palestinians as the march began near the Old City for disturbing the peace, throwing rocks and assaulting officers.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 33 Palestinians were injured in the clashes, six of whom were hospitalized for wounds from rubber or sponge-tipped bullets and another Palestinian that the medical service said was injured by live fire, but who police were preventing them from evacuating for treatment. Police said two officers were injured and taken for treatment.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza launched balloon-borne incendiary devices at Israel throughout the day, with the fire services reporting that they arson attacks sparked at least 26 blazes in the south. Some Palestinians also rioted along the border, one of whom was reportedly shot in the leg, suffering light injuries.
After the march, Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi for an assessment of the situation, his office said.
There was no public comment on the march or the violence in Gaza from Bennet, who met separately with the heads of the Shin Bet and Mossad intelligence agencies for his first working meetings with them earlier today.
According to Channel 12 news, Israel warned Hamas via Egypt that there would be a tough and immediate response to any rocket fire from Gaza. The network quoted a diplomatic source vowing Israel would respond to the arson balloon attacks, but would pick the timing.
The network asked the diplomatic source what Bennett would now do as prime minister in light of hawkish comments he has previously made.
“On the one hand there are doubts, we want to show that there really is a new equation here like we promised after Operation Guardian of the Walls,” the source said. “On the other hand, we don’t want to create the connection that Hamas wants us to create between Gaza and Jerusalem. There will be a response and it will be expressed in a variety of forms.”
The Kan public broadcaster reported that Israel had reassured both the Palestinian Authority and Jordan that they were not looking for an escalation. Additionally, the outlet said the United States had also expressed concerns about the situation.
Earlier, Channel 13 news cited unnamed Palestinian sources saying Egypt had asked Hamas not to cause an escalation, warning that such a move would “embarrass” Cairo and that Bennett’s government — which approved the parade on Monday — would respond forcefully.
According to the sources, Hamas responded that “all options are on the table” but escalation could be avoided “if the event doesn’t get out of control.”
The May 10 — Jerusalem Day — rocket attack during the original parade, which came amid already rising tensions over planned East Jerusalem home evictions and police actions against Muslim rioters on the Temple Mount, touched off 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas-led terrorists in the Gaza Strip, as well as a rash of lower-level clashes in the West Bank and mob violence between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.
Since the fighting ended, Hamas has repeatedly warned that it could reopen hostilities over developments in Jerusalem, and has responded with increased belligerence to plans for the march.
The rescheduled event was initially planned for last Thursday, but was postponed to this Tuesday when police refused to authorize its planned route through the Old City’s Damascus Gate entrance and Muslim Quarter.