The Biden administration warned Israel that a Jewish nationalist march that was scheduled to take place in East Jerusalem next Tuesday could reignite violence across Israel and kick off another round of fighting in the Gaza Strip, Ynet has learned on Thursday.
U.S. officials conveyed to Defense Minister Benny Gantz they expected Israel to avoid moves that could further escalate tensions, and especially what they call "far-right provocations."
The so-called "March of Flags" was supposed to take on Thursday but police ordered to postpone the event, fearing it would provoke local Palestinians to attack marchers.
The rally usually takes place on Jerusalem Day but was interrupted this year when Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at the capital from the Gaza Strip, marking the start of an 11-day conflict between the IDF and the Palestinian enclave's terrorist factions. It was also called off in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In late-night consultations Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tasked Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai with providing alternative routes so that the march could go ahead.
Ministers voted Tuesday to allow the controversial far-right march to take place in Jerusalem’s Old City next Tuesday, June 15, with a new route to be decided between the rally's organizers and police.
Meanwhile, dozens gathered near the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem Thursday evening to protest the decision to postpone the march that was slated to leave from that location to the Temple Mount.
Religious Zionist party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir joined the protesters, slamming the police for "capitulating to Hamas" and declaring he "won't give up" on Jerusalem and the Old City.
The fact that a member of Knesset in Israel cannot march through the Old City is a disgrace, a capitulation to Hamas and a win for terrorism," he told the crowd while noting he did not intend to confront police. "I came here to protest the decision of a failing police commissioner. We won't give up on Jerusalem and the Old City. It is ours."
After Ben-Gvir left the area, unrest erupted as two groups flying the Israeli and Palestinian flags clashed. Police officers used riot control measures, including several stun grenades, to disperse the crowd and arrested five people suspected of disturbing the peace at the scene.
In the view of U.S. fears of rekindled violence, Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida said Thursday evening the terrorist group was closely monitoring the "provocative and aggressive" events in Jerusalem in general and the al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday, but it is unclear whether he raised the issue.
The U.S. supported Israel during the conflict in Gaza and backed the Jewish state's right to defend itself. However, the Biden administration had pressured Israel to seek a ceasefire a few days into the fighting.
At the end of the operation, the U.S. administration vowed to replenish Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and Blinken arrived in Israel for a state visit.