Controversial Jerusalem Flag March stokes tensions

Thousands of people took part in the controversial right-wing Flag March in Jerusalem on Tuesday, with police clashing with hundreds of Palestinian protesters near the Old City’s Damascus Gate as tensions with Gaza run high after last month’s fighting. Mounted police and skunk water were used to disperse them, while at Herod’s Gate, police fired sponge-tipped bullets at protesters. Police arrested 17 Palestinian protesters.

Crowds waving blue and white Israeli flags set off from Damascus Gate, the main entry to the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, dancing and chanting “This is our home” and “Jerusalem is ours.” Israeli police in riot gear blocked surrounding streets, forcibly removing Palestinian protesters from the route. About 2,000 police officers had been deployed and medics said 17 Palestinians were injured as officers cleared streets ahead of the planned flag march. Thirty-three Palestinian protesters were injured, including by stun grenade, rubber bullets and live fire, with six evacuated to hospital, following clashes with Israeli security forces, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said. The march, coming less than a month after an 11-day war in Gaza that killed more than 280 Palestinians and 12 people in Israel, was expected to further stoke tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

The flag march is an annual parade where mostly nationalist Jewish groups celebrate Israel gaining control of the Western Wall during the 1967 Six-Day War and captured East Jerusalem, placing the entire city under Israeli control. In previous years, the march has been a flashpoint with Palestinian residents of the Old City.