Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday warned Israel about going ahead with the nationalistic Jerusalem flag march next week, which could potentially re-ignite violence in the capital.
Israel last week said they have given the go-ahead for flag-waving Jewish nationalists to march through the Damascus Gate, the Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem's Old City, in commemoration of the annual Jerusalem Day.
Last year's 11-day Gaza war erupted as the march was just getting underway, even after authorities changed the route to avoid Damascus Gate, with a barrage of rockets fired by terror groups in the Strip at the Israeli capital.
"I say it clearly, I warn the enemy against committing such crimes and actions," the terror group’s leader said ahead of the event set to take place this coming Sunday.
The terror leader added that “we will oppose and we will never allow an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque or a rampage in the streets of Jerusalem against our people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and inside [Israel]”.
“I call on our people to be prepared and ready to defend the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and not to allow such revelry,” added Haniyeh, referring to the fact that Palestinians pass through the Damascus Gate en route to the compound where the mosque is located.
The controversial flag march has been a flashpoint for debate among members of the ramshackle coalition for months, most recently during Sunday’s Knesset meeting - during which Regional Cooperation Minister and Meretz MK Issawi Frej lambasted the decision to hold the march in East Jerusalem.
For his part, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett defended the decision, reasoning that last year, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caved in to the demands of Hamas not to allow the march to pass through the Damascus Gate, yet the terror group still fired rockets into the Israeli territory.
“The recommendation of all security officials, including the Shin Bet, the IDF and the Israel Police, is to allow the march to take place along its customary route. We accepted that recommendation,” Bennett added.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid expressed concern about the political damage the march could cause, especially after the documented clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian mourners taking part in the funeral procession of slain Al-Jazeera journalist Sheerin Abu Akleh.
Defense Minister Benny Ganz, meanwhile, chose not to oppose the march, adding that it should definitely be held if the government announced so previously.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, for his part, issued a public statement following the decision to hold the march: "Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, proudly waves the national flag and the Jerusalem flag on the occasion of [Jerusalem Day.]”
“This year we mark 55 years since the liberation of the city. Jerusalem Day is special for all of us and we celebrate it in a variety of ways: Including ceremonies, events, performances, marches, tours for families, children, students, city residents and tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country.”