People wave Israeli flags during the Israeli right-wing 'Flag March' next to the Damascus gate of Jerusalem's Old City, Jerusalem, 18 May 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

Jerusalem tense as thousands of far-right Israelis march in Old City

Jerusalem, May 18 (EFE).- Thousands of ultra-orthodox and nationalist Israelis, many of them settlers, were rallying in the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday to commemorate the 1967 capture of the eastern half of the city.

The annual rally comes amid heightened tensions with Palestinians, who view the march as a deliberate provocation that undermines their claim to East Jerusalem, which they and many in the international community see as the future capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Participants dance and carry Israeli flags during the Israeli right-wing ‘Flag March’ in Jerusalem, 18 May 2023. EFE/EPA/ABIR SULTAN

More than 3,000 police officers have been deployed throughout the city and on access roads, as many of the marchers come from Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank to celebrate the “unification” of Israel’s “single and indivisible capital.”

The march comes days after Israel reached a fragile truce with Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip following five days of escalating warfare which killed 33 Palestinians in Gaza and two people on Israeli soil.

That escalation came in the wake of months of deadly tensions that has seen around 120 Palestinians killed in violent incidents with Israeli security forces and civilians, while 19 people have died in Israel.

An Israeli police officer confronts a Palestinian youth during the Israeli right-wing ‘Flag March’ next to the Damascus gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, Jerusalem, 18 May 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

The march is due to pass through the Muslim quarter of the Old City, in the occupied eastern part of the city – which Israel unilaterally annexed in 1980 – and the Islamist Hamas movement on Wednesday called on Palestinians to confront the ultra-nationalist demonstration in Jerusalem.

Most of the attendees of the annual march are Orthodox Jewish Israelis and ultra-nationalists, who make up the backbone of supporters of the Jewish Power and Religious Zionism parties, both junior members of the governing coalition led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the most right-wing regime in Israel’s history.

In addition to Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich – ministers of National Security and Finance, respectively – other ministers such as the Minister of Transportation, Miri Regev; the Minister of Development of the Negev and Galilee, Yitzhak Wasserlauf; and the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, the ultra-Orthodox Meir Porush, are expected to take part in the march.

An Israeli police officer pictured during the Israeli right-wing ‘Flag March’ next to the Damascus gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, Jerusalem, 18 May 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

Violent acts against Palestinians, hate speech and chants of “death to the Arab” occur year after year during the march, which heads to the Wailing Wall via the Christian and Muslim neighborhoods of the Arab-populated Old City.

Palestinian militias have threatened to fire rockets in response to the march, and Gaza’s explosive balloon unit has warned that it will resume its activities on Thursday. EFE