The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they unfolded.
The United States urges Iran not to carry out the executions of three people involved in nationwide protests, with campaigners fearing that authorities will kill them imminently.
State Department spokesman Vedant Patel, echoing a statement last week by Amnesty International, voices concern that Iran may soon execute Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi, who were arrested in November over protests in the central city of Isfahan.
“We join the people of Iran and the international community in calling on Iran to not carry out these executions,” Patel tells reporters. “The execution of these men after what have widely been regarded as sham trials would be an affront to human rights and basic dignity in Iran and everywhere.
President Isaac Herzog issues a warning about internal hatred leading to destruction in comments marking Jerusalem Day.
The never-ending journey of Jerusalem “has taught us as a society and a country that there is only one way for us to undertake this journey — together,” says Herzog at an official state ceremony.
“In particular on Jerusalem Day,” Herzog adds, he must cite the phrase from Jewish sages “that senseless hatred destroyed Jerusalem — and I emphasize: Unjustified hatred is not just a reason but a consequence of itself; there are factors that lead to it.”
Herzog adds that stories of just hatred and destruction throughout Jewish history all stem from an inability “to manage the disagreement, to solve the dispute, to put the internal debate aside on the way to peace. That’s what leads to hatred, and hatred leads to destruction.”
The Jewish people, he adds, must learn from such lessons and put their findings into action.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that he made sure the Flag March in the Old City of Jerusalem today went ahead to send a message that Israel would not back down due to threats.
“Despite the threats, and I’ll tell you, because of the threats, I instructed to hold the Flag March with its many participants on its original path,” Netanyahu says at an event in Ammunition Hill marking Jerusalem Day.
Netanyahu says that the recent conflict with Gaza sent a message “not just to them, but to other places in the region, who are looking at the impressive operational abilities of the State of Israel.”
Sparring ministers are reportedly threatening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with quitting the government if their demands are not met in the upcoming budget.
Kan news reports that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has told Netanyahu that he will resign his position if the Haredi parties’ receive an additional NIS 600 million in the upcoming budget that they have demanded.
And according to the Walla new site, the Agudat Yisrael faction of the United Torah Judaism party is threatening to pull out of the coalition if they do not receive the additional demanded funds.
The ultra-Orthodox parties are seeking the additional NIS 600 million ($164 million) to fund full-time religious scholars in addition to the billions already pledged to the ultra-Orthodox community.
The government must pass a budget before its May 29 deadline, which if not met would trigger an automatic dissolution of parliament and snap elections.
NEW YORK — A majority of Democratic lawmakers in the New York State Assembly condemn a resolution introduced by their colleagues that targets funding for charities that operate in West Bank settlements.
A statement denouncing the resolution is signed by 66 Democrats from the State Assembly, representing the majority of the party’s 102 lawmakers in the government body.
The statement led by assemblymembers Daniel Rosenthal and Nily Rozic says the proposed measure’s “purpose is to attack Jewish organizations that have wide ranging mission from feeding the poor to providing emergency medical care for victims of terrorism to clothing orphans.”
“This bill is a ploy to demonize Jewish charities with connections to Israel. It was only introduced to antagonize pro-Israel New Yorkers and further sow divisions within the Democratic party,” the statement says.
— Daniel Rosenthal (@DanRosenthalNYC) May 18, 2023
A similar statement released yesterday was signed by 24 state representatives.
The resolution was put forward by progressive lawmakers from the Democratic Socialists of America.
The legislation says it aims to “prohibit not-for-profit corporations from engaging in unauthorized support of Israeli settlement activity.” It would have denied funding to settlements, but also charities outside the West Bank that provide services including support for asylum seekers, at-risk youth and the disabled.
The speaker of the New York State Assembly, Carl Heastie, dismisses the legislation as dead in the water.
“This bill is a non-starter and it is not something we are considering,” Heastie told The Times of Israel yesterday.
The Israel Defense Forces says Palestinians in the Gaza Strip violently protesting along the border with Israel hurled explosive devices toward the security barrier.
No soldiers are hurt during the riots.
The IDF says troops responded with riot dispersal means and live fire.
The gathering is currently dispersing, the IDF adds.
Two suspects have been arrested for throwing objects at journalists at Damascus Gate while they were covering the nationalist Jerusalem Day Flag March.
Police say the two suspects are an adult and a minor, and they were taken to a police station for further questioning.
After a search of the suspects, police say they discovered a knife in the minor’s backpack.
Thousands of Jewish Israelis converge upon the Western Wall Plaza as part of the ongoing Flag March.
A special divider has been erected in the general plaza in order to enable extended space for gender-segregated dancing in the largely religious crowd.
In addition to waving flags, the crowd dances to music from a live band, playing religious and nationalist music.
Egypt condemns the “storming” of several ministers and MKs of the Temple Mount earlier today — language Arab nations generally use to refer to their visits — and also criticizes the ongoing Jerusalem Day Flag March which passes through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.
Cairo calls the incidents and the “accompanying provocations” against the Palestinians an “an irresponsible escalation that fuels tensions.”
Revelers in the Flag March are streaming into the Old City of Jerusalem through two separate gates — Damascus Gate for men and Jaffa Gate for women.
The march is heavily populated by national religious teens, a movement which seeks to avoid mixed dancing.
Alongside the mostly teenaged girls entering through Jaffa Gate are a number of families, who chose a tamer route for approaching the Western Wall plaza than marchers who chose to go through the Muslim Quarter.
Police have told most Palestinian shopkeepers in the Muslim Quarter to shutter their businesses and go home in an attempt to prevent further clashes between them and the ultra-nationalist youth participating in the march.
Several such clashes occurred earlier today, before the march began.
Hundreds of Palestinians are protesting in the Gaza Strip on the border with Israel.
Footage shows Israeli military drones dropping tear gas bombs in the area.
According to Palestinian media reports, several people are being treated by medics.
The Israel Defense Forces does not immediately comment on the protests.
شاهد طائرة كواد كابتر تقوم بإلقاء عدد من قنابل الغاز اتجاه المتظاهرين في مخيم ملكة شرقي قطاع غزة . pic.twitter.com/JwjL5URfO0
— حسن اصليح | Hassan (@hassaneslayeh) May 18, 2023
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a delegation from his Religious Zionism party in joining the Flag March at the Old City in Jerusalem.
Smotrich is joined by MKs Simcha Rothman, Michal Woldiger, Zvi Sukkot and Ohad Tal.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir is also at the event along with a number of Otzma Yehudit MKs, as is Likud MK Yuli Edelstein.
A group of participants in the Jerusalem Day Flag March throw various items, including water bottles and flagpoles, at Muslim journalists positioned above the Damascus Gate assembly area.
Among the group throwing the items are numerous young men holding the black flag of the racist, far-right Lehava organization.
Border Police officers move to the area to stop further incidents, although some marchers still succeed in throwing objects towards the journalists.
Dozens of marchers also chant “your village will be burned,” a common far-right taunt against Palestinians.
MK Yitzhak Kroizer of the ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party says the Flag March is about “applying sovereignty to all parts of Jerusalem” and celebrating the reunification of the city.
“At the Flag March we demonstrate our happiness at the reunification of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, celebrate with the masses of the Jewish people and declare ‘the Jewish people live,’” says the MK, who was accompanied by his two young daughters.
Kroizer says he does not condone the provocative and racist chants that have often been a feature at the event, but insists that such incidents are “not the essence” of the event.
The United Arab Emirates condemns the Israeli lawmakers who visited the Temple Mount earlier today to mark Jerusalem Day.
In a statement, the UAE foreign ministry says it “strong condemned” the “extremists” and calls for a halt to “serious and provocative violations” of the holy site.
It also calls on Israeli authorities “to halt escalation and avoid taking steps to exacerbate tension and instability in the region.”
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party arrives at the launch point of the Flag March on King George Street.
Ben Gvir is mobbed by young supporters on King George Street in the capital.
“There are tens of thousands of people here, thank God,” Ben Gvir says, “Jerusalem is ours forever.”
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 18, 2023
Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech, celebrating Jerusalem Day with her daughter outside of the Great Synagogue, tells The Times of Israel that the celebration is “the most exciting thing in the world.”
“And our victory over Jerusalem and our victory over the Arabs is the best win of all,” she adds. “And it’s not to be taken for granted, it’s such an honor that we’re here.”
Several people are hurt, two of them seriously, in a gas leak inside a store in Beersheba’s Old City, first responders say.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service says 10 people are being treated in the incident, with one in critical condition, another in serious condition and the rest in good condition.
Police say they are asking people to stay away from the area as they deal with the situation.
Thousands of revelers are gathered outside of Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, where they dance with flags to live music.
“I didn’t come to fight, I came to celebrate,” says Liora from Ashkelon, who is dancing with a flag. “I feel connected to our story, I care about the reunification,” she adds.
Likud MK Yuli Edelstein is present in the crowd.
Police say a 29-year-old Palestinian suspect from the West Bank city of Ramallah was detained this morning by officers while he was purchasing a gun to be used in a terror attack.
A Border Police spokesman says the alleged Hamas member was tracked down by officers using intelligence given to them by the Shin Bet security agency.
The suspect, who allegedly planned to carry out an attack with the assault rifle he purchased, was handed over the Shin Bet for further questioning.
Marchers begin arriving in the Old City of Jerusalem as the Flag March officially begins, with the route set to go through the Muslim Quarter.
Most of the participants are religious teens, many bused in from yeshivas and seminaries to take part in the event.
The first groups of Jerusalem Day marchers arriving at Damascus Gate. This group is from a premilitary academy in the West Bank settlement of Beit El… pic.twitter.com/OXzS9IxAyp
— Jeremy Sharon (@jeremysharon) May 18, 2023
Scuffles and arrests were reported even before the event began.
Some of the religious Jewish teenagers marching in the Flag March are disrupting news reports by journalists at the scene.
Many of them wave flags in front of the camera, cursing reporters, including those working for The Times of Israel.
Young Jewish man calling himself Yosef Abergil harassing and swearing at journalists at Damascus Gate tells me to go fuck my self. Charming young man… pic.twitter.com/DOzt2FcAyc
— Jeremy Sharon (@jeremysharon) May 18, 2023
A large group also attempt to disrupt a broadcast from Sky News Arabia outside the Damascus Gate.
שער שכם לקראת מצעד הדגלים – צעירים ישראלים מפריעים לשידור של Sky News Arabia pic.twitter.com/M9HRl2px2Y
— שחר גליק (@glick_sh) May 18, 2023
Two friends among the groups of young religious teenagers who came to the Old City’s Muslim Quarter for the Flag March say they arrived to “demonstrate for Jewish identity,” according to Tzvika, 16, from Maale Adumim.
When asked what they thought the local Arab population might feel about the march, Ilan, 15, also from Maale Adumim, says: “Of course it bothers them. It bothers me that they’re in my country.”
A separate procession organized by far-right Jerusalem Municipality Councilmember Arieh King is expected to go through the Muslim Quarter’s Lions’ Gate into the Old City.
The gate closest to the Temple Mount, it is rarely used by Jews.
A spokesman for the Israel Police says “there are many different parades; the official parade is going through the map we put up” which only includes Damascus and Jaffa sates.
An Israel Defense Forces officer with the rank of captain has been arrested on suspicion of raping a female officer in his unit, the military says.
In a statement, the IDF confirms a report by the Ynet news site of the investigation, and says the officer would remain in custody until at least Tuesday. The IDF says he is suspected of “serious sex offenses.”
The female officer, who filed a complaint with the Military Police, said the rape took place several months ago, during an outing taken by male and female officers of the unit, the report said.
Muna Barbar, a Palestinian woman from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, says she came to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City as a form of protest against the Flag March.
“I am here because they are here — the people who are occupying our land since 1948,” she says. “Every year we come to walk inside our Old City because we are the people who own Jerusalem, which is the capital of Palestine, and we are the people who live here since my great-great-great-grandfather.”
“They come every time this year to gather and convince themselves that Jerusalem belongs to them,” Barbar adds. “But all the dancing and flags will end in four hours and then the city will belong again to the residents.”
She adds that “Jews have no national rights here. They are only here because they have the guns and the support of America and the Europeans and are trying to make us a minority in Jerusalem.”
Police say that so far 10 people have been arrested for disorder as thousands gather in the capital for the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March.
Some of those arrested include left-wing activists who blocked a highway heading to Jerusalem, police say, adding that others were detained after “provocations” and clashes with Palestinians in the Old City.
Police forces in Jerusalem are being bolstered by Border Police officers and volunteers to ensure the safety of the highly contentious event.
Fighting begins to break out in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, with the police intervening between the shouting and pushing Jewish and Palestinian youth.
Police give chase to a group of Palestinian teens, as a Jewish teen yells “whore” at the Palestinians and a Palestinian returns the insult.
Fights begin to break out between religious Jewish and Palestinian youth.
“Whore!,” one of the Jewish teens yells, as police give chase to Palestinian teens. pic.twitter.com/2v1oG4g1NL
— Carrie Keller-Lynn (@cjkeller8) May 18, 2023
Police are asking shopkeepers in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to close, although they phrase the request as a recommendation rather than an order.
With less than 90 minutes to the anticipated start of the Flag March, shopkeeper Shadi Hatib says he is keeping his juice stand open a bit longer in order to squeeze out more revenue.
“The police officer came by and told us to close down,” Hatib says, saying that the officer told him “we don’t want them to cause you problems,” in reference to right-wing Jews expected to descend upon the Old City.
“But they don’t pay me compensation,” says the East Jerusalem native.
Police later forcibly escort Hatib from the area outside his shop where he was congregating with other onlookers and young men shouting insults, shoving Hatib on his way down Hagai Street, where he lives.
Aziz Rajbi, an employee at a coffee bar and resident of the Old City, says that police recommended he close the shop but did not obligate him to do so, and that he plans to leave it open as long as there is no violence during the march.
A group of left-wing activists are attempting to block people from getting to the nationalist Flag March as it is about to set off in Jerusalem.
Carrying a banner reading “Free Jerusalem from Fascism,” around 100 activists are reportedly seeking to shut down the Tunnels Road that leads from the West Bank to Jerusalem.
“The Flag March is an event created to celebrate occupation and supremacy, and every year we are witness to them trying to ignite the region, attack and curse Palestinians,” the “Free Jerusalem” protest group says in a statement.
Now left wing activists block the road from the West Bank to Jerusalem to block settlers arriving to the flags march pic.twitter.com/ylxT4IUq1i
— Oren Ziv (@OrenZiv_) May 18, 2023
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop lawmakers from visiting the flashpoint Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Mainstream Haredi Jews, including the Chief Rabbinate, believe that Jews should not ascend to the Temple Mount because the site is holy and modern-day Jews are impure. Gafni says that such trips are not just sacrilege, but also dangerous on both a security and diplomatic level.
“I am appealing and asking you to prevent the ascent to the Temple Mount, both due to the political issue regarding the attitude of the countries of the world in allowing it, and due to the security issue and the incitement that exists as a result,” says Gafni.
Gafni adds that “there is no reason for this, it does not show sovereignty; on the contrary, it constitutes sacrilege in the place most connected to the Jewish people and most sacred to them.”
Earlier today, ministers and lawmakers from the Likud and Otzma Yehudit parties visited the Temple Mount, including Otzma Yehudit’s Negev and Galilee Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf and MK Yitzhak Kroizer, and Likud MKs Dan Illouz, Amit Halevi and Ariel Kallner.
Local reporters say that some small clashes and scuffles have broken out between Jewish marchers in the annual Flag March and Arabs in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Photos show religious Jewish youth kicking and fighting with Arabs along the parade route as police attempt to intervene, although it was not clear what provoked or set off the argument.
The weekly cabinet meeting is slated to be held Sunday inside the Western Wall tunnels, in honor of Jerusalem Day, the government announces.
The Hebrew date marking the reunification falls this year on Friday, although the annual Flag March is being held today.
The top leaders of Pakistan and Iran inaugurate the first border market as relations warm between the two countries, officials said.
Located in the remote village of Pashin in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, the marketplace is the first of six to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border under a 2012 agreement signed by the two sides.
In a televised meeting, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, sitting next to Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, assures him Pakistan will do its best to improve security along the Iranian border. He adds that both sides agree to enhance trade and economic ties, and extends an invitation to Raisi to visit the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
Iran-Pakistani relations have been contentious because of cross-border attacks by Pakistani militants along their shared border.
This is the first visit of its kind since 2013, when the two nations signed an agreement allowing Pakistan to import Iranian gas despite American opposition. Tehran at the time said that “the West has no right to block the project.” The agreement could not be implemented because of US sanctions on Iran.
The Israel Police are beginning to close a number of major streets in the capital ahead of the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March.
The major thoroughfares to be shut include King George and Keren Hayesod as well as Ben Zvi, Bezalel, Agron, King Solomon and several others.
Light rail service near the Old City will also be halted. Streets are slated to reopen around 7 p.m. at the conclusion of the events.
Over 3,000 police officers are expected to be deployed across the city for the march, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of largely Orthodox Jewish nationalists.
Revelers begin to stream into the capital to celebrate Jerusalem Day, among them families planning to stay for the weekend.
“We came for the whole weekend, to honor the liberation of Jerusalem, of the Western Wall,” says Keren Silam, exiting Jerusalem’s train station.
Coming from the central city of Netanya, Silam and 30 members of her extended family rented an apartment for the holiday weekend.
“Three generations are here!” says her sister Miri Peretz, accompanying their father and her daughter.
The family plans to join today’s Flag March, a celebration of Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem when it captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War.
“My father fought in 1967,” she says.
Alongside dancing and Israeli flag waving, the event annually triggers tensions and scuffles with local Palestinians, who see it as a provocation.
“There are no fights, we’re for here for peace,” says Keren, when asked if she’s concerned about the annual confrontations.
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