The Israel Police declined a request by right-wing activists to hold a march around Jerusalem’s Old City walls on Wednesday afternoon after the organizers reneged on an agreed-upon alternative route, the police said on Wednesday morning.
Contrary to the organizers' portrayal of the event as a flag march, the police defined it as a protest march. An alternative route that would have enabled the police to safeguard the march had been agreed upon on Tuesday but the organizers quickly rescinded their approval, the police said.
The march is likely to increase Israeli-Palestinian tensions not only in the capital but in the West Bank and Gaza as well.
According to the Old City Youth organization and other right-wing groups, police claimed that the request for security was made too close to the date of the event. The groups responded that they “could not have known that there would be terrorist attacks, and that the Old City would be desolate during the intermediary days of the holiday, which are [usually] its peak days.”
The groups rejected the police’s earlier request to reschedule the march, saying: “The police are essentially declaring to the citizens of Israel that there is no security in the Old City during this Passover, a worrying statement in terms of morals and security.”
The groups said that they intend to march in any case on Wednesday at 5 p.m., telling the police: “You’ve forgotten your role. We’ll march, you secure [it].”
The police said that it had invited the organizers of the event to a meeting to reschedule the event, and that the organizers had published details of the march before receiving permission from the police to hold it. The police added they were ready to secure the event if it would be held at a later date.
Additionally, the Association of Israeli Community Rabbis, headed by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, claimed on Monday that the police would not let them hold festive prayers this year at the Davidson Center along the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount plaza. The association claimed that the decision was made by police due to concerns that it could “anger” Arabs.
The association said that it would hold the prayer services in any case, and called on police to secure the event.
MK Itamar Ben Gvir (Religious Zionists) said he would participate in the march.
"Bennett abandoned the Temple Mount. He abandoned us to our enemies, handed them victory, and therefore I cannot be silent and I will participate along with right-wing activists in the march towards Damascus Gate, we will proudly hoist the flag, Am Yisrael Chai," he wrote in a statement.
Clashes broke out on the Temple Mount on Tuesday morning, as 853 Jews visited the site.
Over 300 Palestinians have been injured, most of them lightly, in daily clashes there and in the Old City that began on Friday.
Sensitivities have been particularly high, in light of the overlapping Ramadan holy month with Passover this week.
Arabs at the site on Tuesday attempted to block the pathways used by Jewish visitors in the morning with large stones. According to the Hamas-affiliated al-Resalah news site, Arabs also placed broken glass on the pathway since Jewish visitors often walk barefoot at the site due to religious law.
As security forces entered the site to secure it for the Jewish visitors, Arabs launched fireworks, with Israeli forces responding by firing tear gas.
As Jewish visitors toured the site, Arabs barricaded inside the Aqsa Mosque and played the sound of rocket sirens and speeches by Hamas’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades spokesperson Abu Obeida. Arabs also shouted slogans at Jewish visitors and banged on the doors and windows of the mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
A number of Arabs were arrested during the Jewish visits.
A court on Monday extended the arrests of 20 suspects arrested for taking part in riots, attacking people, throwing stones and launching fireworks in the Old City of Jerusalem two days ago, according to police.
Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement – who was released from prison in December after serving time for inciting terrorism – visited the Temple Mount on Monday.
Salah stated while at the site that al-Aqsa is an “Islamic, Arab, Palestinian right,” and that the Israeli presence there is an “occupying presence, and therefore it is false and without legitimacy,” according to Palestinian media.
Thousands of right-wing activists marched Tuesday to Homesh to stake their claim to the remote West Bank hilltop that Israel abandoned 17-years ago.
“We came to commit to settling all areas of the Land of Israel,” said MK Bezalel Smotrich.
Those at the march demanded that the government authorize the Homesh yeshiva, which is illegally located on the hilltop, and to rebuild the Homesh settlement that was destroyed in 2005 after the Gaza pullout.
Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionist Party, is among those politicians who want to see an all right-wing government replace the existing coalition that includes the Israeli-Arab party Ra’am.
“I have no expectations from this government that has surrendered to Islam,” said Smotrich.
Settlers and the Right have been braced for the IDF to evacuate the yeshiva.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said that “the thousands who came here today, did so to give a message to the government. Don’t touch Homesh.”
The IDF “must stop with the evictions and the checkpoints,” he said, adding that the “nation is with Homesh,” and pledged “we will rebuild it” along with the settlement of Sa-Nur, which was also destroyed in 2005.
“A government that abandons both the Negev and Homesh will be replaced with a government worthy of the people of Israel – a full right-wing government,” Dagan said.
MK Idit Silman (Yamina), who sparked a political crisis when she resigned from the coalition earlier this month, also participated in the march.
Other participants included relatives of terror victims from Homesh, including yeshiva student Yehuda Dimentman, 25, who was killed by a Palestinian gunman in December, and Shalom “Shuli” Har-Melekh, 25.