The Hamas terrorist group on Saturday called on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to protest on the Temple Mount if the Jerusalem flag march takes place as planned on June 10. The march, which is usually held on Jerusalem Day (May 10 this year), was canceled by police due to the eruption of fighting last month between Hamas and Israel and the increased tensions in the capital.

Muhammad Hamadeh, Hamas’s spokesman in eastern Jerusalem, said in a statement that the organization was “warning Israel against using Jerusalem as a tool to evade its internal crisis and its failure to resolve its political problems.”

Hamadeh called on the residents of eastern Jerusalem and Arab Israelis in general to go to the Temple Mount to “protect the Al-Aqsa mosque from the malice of the Zionists and their schemes.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday night he would not support holding the march if doing so necessitated any special security effort. His comments sparked an outcry from right-wing leaders, who accused him of kowtowing to Hamas.

Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis of Likud said, “The security forces need to provide security for the marchers. If we give up Jerusalem, we will have given up everything.”

Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich tweeted: “We didn’t wait 2,000 years for an independent and sovereign Jewish state for a cowardly defense minister to publicly surrender to Hamas’s threats of terror (and essentially inviting more threats and terror) and seeking to prevent Jews from marching with the flags of Israel in Jerusalem—the holy and ‘united’ capital city. I expect Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Public Security Minister [Amir Ohana] to make it clear that the march will be held.”

The annual march, which celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War, usually passes through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

The route for Thursday’s march, which passes through Damascus Gate, has not yet been approved by police. In any case, the final say will likely belong to the political echelon, which could decide to alter the router or cancel the march altogether in an attempt to avoid escalating tensions.

Indeed, concerns exist that it could ignite sectarian tensions in the capital and torpedo Israel’s so-called “change” government, which for the time being appears to have secured the necessary 61 seats to form a coalition.

Heightened tensions between Jews and Muslims could pressure the Jewish nationalist Yamina Party and Islamist Ra’am Party to withdraw their support for the coalition. Both parties halted coalition talks when violence between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza began last month, before returning to discussions and agreeing to join a coalition with the Yesh Atid Party.

Meretz Party Knesset Esawi Frej said he had asked Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai to cancel the march, saying on Twitter that it was “a provocation that looks like an attempt to reignite the violence in our region, perhaps in the desire that it will serve some political interest or another.”

Yesh Atid Knesset member Ram Ben-Barak suggested on Saturday that rescheduling the march to June 10 was an attempt to disrupt the country’s incoming government.

“We are at the beginning of difficult days in which a lot of pressure and attempts will be made to thwart the [pro-change government], but in the end, a new era will begin here. The will to form a government that will unite the division in Israeli society will overcome all attempts to thwart it,” tweeted Ben-Barak.

March organizers said in a statement: “We will demand the unification of Jerusalem for eternity. We will return to marching in the streets of Jerusalem with heads held high and the Israeli flag. We will sing and dance for the Land of Zion and Jerusalem. Come one and come all to raise the flag and celebrate in the joy of Jerusalem.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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