Jerusalem is bracing for a night of anger and confrontation as extremist Jewish groups plan to hold a provocative flag march in the Old City and near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The march, which is scheduled to start at 9:45 pm on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, will be attended by ministers and Knesset members from the right-wing parties, and will pass through the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Al-Jadeed, Al-Zahira, Al-Amoud and Al-Asbat, before ending at Al-Buraq Square.
The flag march is seen as a show of force and a challenge to the Palestinian presence and sovereignty in Jerusalem, especially after the recent escalation in May 2021 that sparked a war between the Israeli occupation and Palestinians in Gaza. The march also coincides with the anniversary of the alleged “destruction of the Temple” by the Romans in 70 CE, which is commemorated by some Jewish groups who seek to build a temple on the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the Muslim and Christian organizations have called for a mass mobilization to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque and confront the settler incursions. The popular youth movement in Jerusalem announced a night of anger throughout occupied Jerusalem, and urged people to retreat to Al-Aqsa Mosque after the afternoon and evening prayers on Wednesday. The movement also warned the Israeli occupation that its attempt to invade Jerusalem will only backfire on it and humiliate it, and called on the heroic youth of the city to clash in all streets and squares.
The Muslim-Christian Organization for the Support of Jerusalem and Holy Places denounced the flag march as a new aggression on Al-Aqsa Mosque and an attempt to Judaize the holy city. The head of the Jerusalem Anti-Judaization Committee, Nasser al-Hadmi, warned of Israeli plans to control all Arab neighborhoods and reach a stage where Al-Aqsa Mosque will be demolished and a “temple” will be built in its place. He said that the flag march is a kind of provocation and Judaization that aims to create a Jewish human flow in the city and change its character.
The Israeli authorities have deployed thousands of police and security forces in Jerusalem to secure the flag march and prevent any clashes or disturbances. The police have also imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinians to Al-Aqsa Mosque, allowing only those who are over 50 years old or have Israeli-issued permits. The police have also closed some roads and checkpoints leading to Jerusalem, causing traffic jams and delays for commuters.
The flag march has been condemned by several regional and international actors, who have warned of its dangerous consequences for the stability and security of Jerusalem and the region. The United Nations, the European Union, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Iran, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and others have called on Israel to cancel or restrain the march and respect the status quo of Al-Aqsa Mosque. They have also expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights in Jerusalem.