The march in West Jerusalem was initially approved, but there were concerns about potential violence due to the ongoing war in Gaza. About 200 Israeli settlers gathered in the centre of West Jerusalem on Thursday night for a march, but Israeli police forcefully dispersed them after they made provocative speeches.
The march was supposed to head towards the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and enter through Damascus Gate. However, the marchers violated conditions set by authorities, leading the police to crack down and cancel the permission for the march.
Similar marches by far-right groups through the Old City of Jerusalem have led to violence against Palestinians in the past. The Old City is part of East Jerusalem, which has been under illegal Israeli occupation since 1967.
The march sparked even greater concerns about potential violence because it was planned during Israel’s war on Gaza. Israel’s bombing and artillery fire have killed more than 17,000 people in Gaza since October 7 when Hamas fighters attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and capturing 240 others.
According to an Israeli police spokesperson, racist chants were heard at the march, and some protesters disobeyed police instructions and advanced without permission, leading to the declaration of an illegal assembly by a police officer.
One of the settlers attending the march described the group’s intent as “to get rid of the Muslim Waqf of the Temple Mount because the Temple Mount belongs only to the Jewish people”. Al-Aqsa, one of Islam’s holiest sites, is also known as the Temple Mount and is a holy site for Jews. The site has been at the heart of tensions in Jerusalem for decades.
In recent years, settler attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque have become more frequent, often backed by influential politicians such as Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir. After the march was cancelled, the Old City remained closed over fears that the settlers might enter and carry out attacks against residents.
Israel has faced growing criticism from its allies, particularly the United States, over violence and provocations by settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israel Police will continue to allow freedom of expression and protest within the limits of the law but will not allow the violation of public order contrary to the law.
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