Amid a heavy Israeli police presence to quell violent Palestinian protesters the Flag March in Yerushalayim’s Old City began on time, at about 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Seventeen people were injured so far in clashes with police as they cleared the Damascus Gate area, the gathering point for the march, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, which said that two of the injured have been hospitalized for wounds from rubber or sponge-tipped bullets.
Police approved a route that will pass by the Damascus Gate, a frequent flashpoint, without entering it, in order to minimize the potential for violence. Instead, the marchers are to walk around the ancient walls of the Old City and then enter through Jaffa Gate, en route to the Jewish Quarter and the Kosel.
Israel police estimate that about 5,000 people are participating in the march.
The IDF has deployed Iron Dome missile defense batteries near Yerushalayim, according to Palestinian media reports that were not confirmed by the IDF.
The parade was rescheduled to today after the originally planned event on Jerusalem Day, May 10, was halted by rocket fire aimed near the city by the Hamas terror group.
Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas is decried the parade as “an unrestrained provocation… an attempt to ignite the region for political purposes.”
“There is no doubt that the goal of the parade initiators is to challenge the new government and exhaust it in a series of explosive events in the near future, and to take us back to an unnecessary escalation that will endanger human lives as we have experienced in the past month,” he said in a statement.
He said that the government, of which he is now a part, should have canceled the march.
A number of right-wing Knesset members were seen in the line of march, including Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, MKs Itamar Ben Gvir and Orit Struck from his party, and Likud MK May Golan.
“Jerusalem is for all religions, but Jerusalem is in Israel. And in Israel, we must be able to go wherever we want, with our flag,” said marcher Doron Avrahami, 50.
Fallout from this week’s governmental changeover was evident as well, as posters depicting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett alongside the text “Bennett the liar” were held aloft, according to The Times of Israel.
The reference is to Bennetts’s decision to abandon the Likud-led right wing to head a government including left-wing parties and the Israeli Arab Ra’am party, despite pre-election promises that he would not do so.