Demonstrators against the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade may have received a leg up from an unexpected source: the IDF strike in Bet Hanoun early Wednesday morning may have paved the way for an indefinite delay of the parade. Police said the additional manpower needed to prevent a terror attack in retribution for the early morning artillery strike could not be maintained while also supplying the 12,000 police officers deemed necessary for securing the march. For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here
High Court to discuss parade positions
Even as the Supreme Court met to discuss four separate petitions against the march, Police Chief Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi said that "in light of the new situation demanding that police deploy manpower throughout the country" police would submit a request to Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to reconsider his decision to insist that the parade be held as planed on Friday.
Karadi called for a special situation assessment to be held Thursday morning, during which police would discuss the security implications of the IDF strike in Bet Hanoun in which at least 20 Palestinians were killed by artillery fire. Police said that the strike had led to increased warnings of terror attacks against Israeli targets, and that the meeting would seek to create an operational plan to confront the raised level of threats.
Even in the hours following the strike, Karadi instructed the police to raise the level of alert in the police to Level 3 - the second highest level of police alert. He instructed both police and Border Police forces to raise the profile of police activity at the entrance to cities, areas with high concentrations of people and downtown neighborhoods. Additionally, the police presence will be increased along the entire Green Line including both undercover and visible checkpoints. Police will also increase its operations to arrest Palestinians working illegally in Israel. MDA also raised to the highest level its alert in the western Negev, while raising the alert level in the rest of the country to the next-to-highest level.
Among the concerns listed by police on Wednesday night was the potential for increased levels of protest among Israeli-Arabs. Karadi's office said that he also planned on discussing raising the alert level on the Temple Mount during Friday prayers, a situation that would put a further demand on the already overburdened Jerusalem District on the day of the planned march.
Although the police said that they would not make a final decision until the Thursday meeting, it was clear even in the final hours of discussion Wednesday night that the march would probably not be held this week. During the Supreme Court hearing, Jerusalem District Commander Cmdr. Ilan Franco advised the State's Attorney representative Eran Etinger of the change in the police position, and Ettinger, in turn, warned the court that the parade was likely to be postponed.
Noa Satat, the director of the Jerusalem Open House, which organized the parade, said following Franco's announcement that they would be willing to wait. "We are supposed to be the Jerusalem Parade of Pride and Tolerance, and now we will really be tolerant," she said, adding that she had no opposition to waiting for the security situation to improve.
Senior police sources did not set a date for the parade if it is in fact delayed, but did say that the delay would be at least by one week.
Meanwhile, perhaps encouraged by rumors of a delay, anti-parade protests seemed to continue to scale down the level of violence for the second day in a row.
Confrontations between police and demonstrators reached a peak on Monday, when police, protesters and bystanders were injured in a series of incidents throughout the day.
But on Wednesday, while protestors blocked streets, police recorded few episodes of stone throwing, and, unlike previous days, neither participants nor bystanders were hospitalized for injuries.
Approximately 300 haredi women held a peaceful march from Rehov Agron to the Western Wall, and a group of about 200 protesters gathered in Shabbat Square and burned trash in protests. In anticipation of the latter, police had already closed the streets leading to the nightly flashpoint. Streets in Har Nof and one street in Ramot were also blocked temporarily by protesters.
For the second night in a row, protesters in the haredi town of Kiriyat Sefer, near Modi'in, burned tires and trashcans in protest, but, unlike the night before, did not spill flammable liquids on the roadway. A protest was also held at the entrance to the community of Elad, a religious town not far from Rosh Ha'ayin. Protesters there stayed on the shoulder of Route 444, and did not interfere with traffic.
Earlier Wednesday, seven protesters, including six minors were brought before Tel Aviv judges after being arrested at a Bnai Barak protest the night before. The six minors - all in their late teens - and one 23-year-old B'nai Barak resident allegedly participated in a protest on Rehov Hashomer in B'nai Barak late Tuesday night during which protestors burned mattresses and threw rocks. Tel Aviv police said that all seven "disturbed public order and endangered passers by and threw rocks at police officers."