Hamas leader Haniyeh warns against right-wing Israeli 'flag march' in East Jerusalem

Hamas leader Haniyeh warns against right-wing Israeli 'flag march' in East Jerusalem
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has warned against a provocative Israeli 'flag march' celebrating the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, amid recent threats to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
3 min read
Haniyeh said Hamas would "never allow the Al-Aqsa mosque to be violated" {Getty]

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned on Sunday against a planned march by right-wing Israeli extremists through occupied East Jerusalem, saying that the Palestinian Islamist group would use "all possibilities" to confront it.

The so-called 'flag march' is due to take place next week to mark Jerusalem Day, an Israeli celebration which marks the anniversary of Israel's illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

The route, provisionally approved by Israeli authorities, allows marchers to enter the Old City through the Damascus Gate, heavily used by Palestinians, en route to the Western Wall, which adjoins the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On Monday, Israeli police were preparing to protect the march's route in heavy numbers, according to reports in Israeli media.

Israeli authorities have not approved a route that would see the march entering the Al-Aqsa compound, and this has never happened in the past.

However, Jewish extremists, often protected by Israeli security forces, have stormed the compound on a regular basis recently.

The march's route was approved last week by Israel's Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, although it has not yet been confirmed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's coalition cabinet.

At a speech marking a year since a conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Haniyeh there had been "calls to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque and hold a march of flags".

"I warn the enemy against committing such crimes," Haniyeh continued, adding that "the resistance... in Jerusalem and the West Bank will not allow or accept" such incidents at Al-Aqsa.

"We will confront it with all possibilities and we will never allow the Al-Aqsa Mosque to be violated," he said.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is Islam's third holiest site, while the Western Wall is sacred to Jews.

Israel refers to the compound as 'Temple Mount' and some Jewish extremists wish to demolish the mosque and build an ancient temple, believed to have existed there in ancient times, in its place.

Haniyeh's remarks come after more than 70 Palestinians were wounded last week in an attack by Israeli forces at a Jerusalem funeral.

This came days after Israeli police stormed a funeral procession of Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist who was killed during an Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

By long-held convention, Jews are allowed to enter the Al-Aqsa compound but not pray there. However, an Israeli court on Sunday ruled that Jews could pray at the mosque, leading to condemnation from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

Bennett's government said it would challenge the ruling and that there would be no change to the current status quo.

An Israeli attack on Palestinian worshippers in the mosque, which injured hundreds of people last year in Ramadan, precipitated the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Two hundred and sixty Palestinians - including 66 children - were killed while 14 people were killed in Israel, including one child.

Israel has imposed a crippling siege on Gaza since Hamas took power in the Palestinian enclave in 2007.