RAMALLAH/GAZA, May 18 (Xinhua) — The Flag March held by Israeli nationalists in Jerusalem on Thursday sparked outrage and condemnation from the Palestinian public and officials.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the Palestinian presidency’s spokesman, told reporters in Ramallah in the West Bank that “Jerusalem is and will be the eternal capital of the independent state of Palestine.” On Thursday afternoon, tens of thousands of Israelis participated in the march to commemorate the “Unification of Jerusalem” amid tight Israeli security measures.
Participants waving Israeli flags and chanting anti-Palestinian slogans marched from the western part of the city, passed through the Islamic Quarter of the Old City, and reached the Wailing Wall close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. “The Palestinian people have the legitimacy in Jerusalem, not Israel or the U.S.,” Abu Rudeineh said, denouncing the march as “Israeli provocation and escalation.”
He held the Israeli government “fully responsible for this escalation and its repercussions, which will lead to more escalations and tensions not only in Jerusalem, but also the entire region.” The official Palestinian news agency (WAFA) reported that Israeli participants in the march “protected by the Israeli police officers, attacked several Palestinians in the old city of Jerusalem.”
The report added that the Israeli police arrested 10 Palestinians for blocking one of the streets in the city to hinder the march. On Thursday morning, Israel deployed more than 3,000 policemen throughout the city of Jerusalem to secure the march, according to Israel Radio. In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated near the fence of the borders between the eastern Gaza Strip and Israel to reject the Israeli flag march. They waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans against Israel, while burning tires and hanging dozens of Palestinian flags on the border fence, said eyewitnesses.
Khaled Al-Batsh, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement leader, told the demonstrators that “the enemy cannot prove its presence in the city by waving thousands of their flags.” “All the historical evidence shows that the city of Jerusalem is Islamic, Arab and Palestinian,” he said. Palestinian medics said that seven Palestinian demonstrators were injured, and dozens suffered suffocation after inhaling the teargas fired by the Israeli soldiers stationed at the border.
Meanwhile, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the politburo of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) that rules the Gaza Strip, said in a press statement that “the mobilization of the Israeli entity to protect the Flag March reflects the Israeli security fragility.” Haniyeh added that “the chapters of confrontation with the enemy are continuing, and our people will close the account only by liberating the land, including Jerusalem and the right of return.”
Israeli nationalists hold the annual Flag March to celebrate so-called “Jerusalem Day.” Israel gained control of Jerusalem during the 1967 war and annexed it shortly afterward, a move that has not been recognized by most of the international community.