Israeli police on Monday said they blocked a planned procession by Jewish ultranationalists through parts of Jerusalem’s Old City, following warnings that it could reignite tensions that led to a punishing 11-day war against Gaza’s militants last month.
The parade, which celebrates Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, was underway on May 10 when Hamas militants in Gaza fired rockets toward the holy city, setting off heavy fighting. Some 254 people were killed in Gaza and 13 in Israel before a cease-fire took effect on May 21.
The war was preceded by weeks of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators in the Old City and in the nearby neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Jewish settlers have waged a decades-long campaign to evict Palestinian families from their homes.
The procession, which had intended to go through the through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, is considered by Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem to be a provocation.
In a statement, police said the proposal to hold the parade later this week was not approved, but new plans would be considered. The decision was attacked by organizers, who accused police of caving in to pressure from Hamas.
Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the hard-line Religious Zionism party, tweeted a warning to embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “not to give in to Hamas threats.”
Renewed tensions in east Jerusalem or fighting with Hamas could complicate Israel’s shaky politics. Netanyahu’s opponents last week said they have formed a coalition that could remove the prime minister from office after a 12-year term. The new coalition is expected to be sworn into office in the coming days.
Over the weekend, Israeli police arrested and released a veteran reporter for the Al Jazeera satellite channel who had regularly been covering the Sheikh Jarrah. And on Sunday, authorities stormed the home of a leading activist in the neighborhood, arresting her and her brother. The siblings were later released.
Before Muna al-Kurd was freed, police briefly clashed with a crowd outside the station, throwing stun grenades.
Sheikh Jarrah is one of the most sensitive parts of east Jerusalem, home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims and which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Israel views the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The settlers are using a 1970 law that allows Jews to reclaim formerly Jewish properties lost during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, a right denied to Palestinians who lost property in the same conflict.