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Police confront Palestinians during Israeli nationalist march in Jerusalem


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Israeli police clashed with Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa compound on Sunday, the day a nationalist march drew hundreds of Jews to the site in Jerusalem.

3,000 agents were mobilized to accompany the act on the esplanade, the third holiest place for Islam and the holiest for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.

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The “March of Flags” celebrates Israel’s capture of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war and this year coincides with a period of escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Most of the international community has never recognized Israeli dominance over East Jerusalem.

Palestinians see the entry of Jews into Al-Aqsa, whose access is controlled by Israeli forces, as a provocation and see the “march of the flags” as a show of force that is part of a broader campaign to bolster a Jewish presence throughout the city.

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Ignoring requests from his coalition allies to negotiate the procession’s route, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed that the act would proceed as planned. “Waving the Israeli flag in the capital of Israel is perfectly acceptable. I ask participants to celebrate responsibly and with dignity.”

Hours before the start of the march, Palestinian protesters threw rocks and fireworks at police, who responded with stun grenades. The police locked some of them in a mosque.

Also before the start of the parade, an Israeli far-right leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, and other nationalists visited the Temple Mount. “I came to support the security forces and I hope the police will bring order. Today I come to say that we, the State of Israel, are sovereign here,” he said.

Among the Jewish visitors were about a dozen youths dressed in religious attire, smiling, singing and clapping in the direction of Palestinian protesters. As the crowd grew, other Jews arrived holding Israeli flags and singing the national anthem.

Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while Palestinians claim the eastern part to be the capital of what they want their future state to be. Hamas, the radical Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, sees all of Israel’s current territory as occupied.

On Sunday, the faction condemned the publication of videos suggesting that Jews had prayed there, in violation of a long-standing ban — they can enter the esplanade, but not pray there. “The government of Israel is fully responsible for all these irresponsible policies and their consequences,” senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told Reuters news agency.

In anticipation of the violence, most shops in the Muslim quarter of the Old Town closed on Sunday, and residents remained locked in their homes.

Several clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police took place at the Al-Aqsa compound in April, during the holy month of Ramadan, with Muslims troubled by the growing number of Jewish visitors on the mosque esplanade.

Two weeks ago, at the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed during an Israeli army operation in the West Bank, police attacked the mourners and ripped off Palestinian flags, causing the coffin to almost fall to the ground.

Sunday’s procession is due to end at the Western Wall, a Jewish place of prayer that is close to the Al-Aqsa mosques.

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