IDF Planes to Patrol Gaza During Flag March

Border police stand guard at Damascus Gate during Yerushalayim Day, Sunday. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Israeli planes are set to patrol the skies of the Gaza Strip during the contentious Yerushalayim Day flag march, prepared to respond immediately to any potential rocket launches from the Hamas-controlled enclave, the IDF said Sunday.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last week warned Israel about going ahead with the nationalistic march marking Yerushalayim Day, which could potentially reignite violence in the capital. Israel has given the go-ahead for flag-waving Jewish nationalists to march through the Damascus Gate, the Palestinian thoroughfare in the Old City, which Palestinians see as unacceptable.

The IDF, however, warned the terror organization that any attacks against Israel in retaliation to the march would lead to great consequences.

While Hamas representatives outside of Gaza keep leveling threats, the group’s military’s wing chief Mohammed Deif and its leader in the Strip Yahya Sinwar have remained relatively reserved. Deif, who called the shots in last year’s 11-day war, is staying silent for the time being, and Sinwar has not explicitly threatening escalation.

Meanwhile, Khaled Mashal – one of Hamas’ leaders abroad – called on all “people of the Islamic and Arabic nation” to embark on a day of rage alongside the flag march on Sunday.

“We must do something big, so that the occupation and its supporters understand that harming Al-Aqsa will lead to an earthquake,” said Mashal.

Despite the ominous tone from Mashal and other Hamas officials, the IDF believes that Hamas is not interested in another military confrontation akin to that of last year. It appears the Gazan leadership wants to verbally incite violence from afar, while maintaining stability inside its borders. Hence, the chances of missile launches are low, but casualties and violence in Jerusalem could alter the circumstances.

The IDF also believes the turmoil in Jerusalem could spark a symbolic missile launch from Lebanon. Another scenario would see the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement shooting rockets separately from Hamas, in which Israel will have to consider the nature of its response.

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