At least 17 Palestinians were arrested and 33 injured as Israeli security forces violently suppressed protesters to make way for a ‘Flag march’ by ultra-nationalist and extremist settlers in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday, June 15. The far-right rally was to mark the anniversary of the start of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem following the six-day war of 1967.
As per reports, thousands of right-wing Israelis began the march from the plaza of the Damascus Gate leading to the old city till the Jaffa Gate, raising Israeli flags and chanting racist slogans like “Death to Arabs”, “May your village burn” and “A second Nakba is coming”. They were seen singing the Israeli national anthem and the anthem of the settler movement.
The march ended at the Western Wall after passing the Jewish quarter of the city. The settlers were accompanied by the Israeli police and other security forces in large numbers. To assist the rally, the Israeli authorities had cut off access to several key areas on the march route, like the Damascus Gate, to Palestinians. Metal barriers, checkpoints and roadblocks were installed across occupied East Jerusalem to prevent Palestinians from accessing large parts of the old city.
In preparation for the march, the Israeli authorities also forcibly cleared the area of Palestinians using tear gas canisters, stun grenades, rubber-coated metal bullets, and by physically assaulting them. Palestinians tried to carry out counter-protests in various locations in the city and the occupied West Bank but were met with violence by the Israeli security forces. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, several injured Palestinians received medical treatment and at least three were taken to the hospital. It also reported that Israeli forces fired at the hospital and blocked the movement of medical personnel and vehicles to treat the wounded.
The march, which is staged every year on the Israeli ‘Jerusalem day’, was originally scheduled on May 10 but was twice postponed amid the violence at Al-Aqsa perpetrated by Israeli extremist settlers and security forces and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. This was followed by an intense and indiscriminate Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza which lasted for 11 days after Palestinian resistance groups such as Hamas fired rockets towards Israel. The Israeli assault on Gaza ended up killing more than 250 Palestinians, including 67 children, and injured close to 2,000 others. It also caused extensive damage to the already flailing civilian and medical infrastructure of the tiny blockaded Palestinian territory.