© Reuters. Israelis dance with flags at Damascus Gate outside the Old City of Jerusalem, June 15, 2021. (Reuters) / Ronen Zevulun / File Photo

By Crispin Palmer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Flag-waving Jewish nationalists will march through the heart of the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday in a parade that could ignite violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

The annual Jerusalem parade celebrates Israel’s occupation of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East war and attracts thousands of cheering, cheering participants through the narrow, stone streets.

But for Palestinians, the march is a blatant provocation and violation of one of the few places in the city that is increasingly constrained by development and Jewish settlement and retains strong Arab influence.

Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, fired rockets into Israel at the start of the rally last year, sparking an 11-day war that left hundreds dead.

On Saturday, the group issued a statement calling on the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, along with the Arab minority in Israel, who are of Palestinian origin and Israeli citizenship, for the “intifada on Sunday to support Jerusalem and Jerusalem.” to defend the mosque.

But despite calls from some allies in his coalition to reconsider the rally, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has so far refused to support any changes.

“The flag parade will be held as usual according to the planned route as it has been for decades,” his office said on Friday, adding that it would review the situation regularly in the coming hours.

Jerusalem and its holy sites, revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians alike, are at the heart of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern part as the capital of their future state. Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by Western governments, considers all of present-day Israel an occupier.

Tensions have been rising in the city for weeks.

In April, during the holy month of Ramadan, frequent clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa compound, with Muslims angry at the increase in Jewish visitors in the mosque’s courtyard.

Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount – a relic of two ancient temples of their religion.

Sunday’s march is scheduled to climax at the Western Wall, a Jewish prayer place below the Al-Aqsa Mosque.