(Photo credit: Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on 11 May that the annual Israeli flag march scheduled for next week will proceed as planned, despite the ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip and the relentless rocket attacks which are continuing to target various locations across the occupied territories.
“This is not a dramatic decision, but a continuation of the norm in a sovereign country. Just as the sun rises every morning, so the parade will continue in its usual format,” Netanyahu wrote on a document set to be discussed during an upcoming cabinet meeting.
After reaching the conclusion following a security assessment on Wednesday that Israel’s “Operation Shield and Arrow” in Gaza was nearing its last few days, officials estimated that the flag march should be pressed ahead with.
According to an informed source, the prime minister gave “an unequivocal directive to hold the parade as planned,” adding that “Hamas [and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)] will not tell us whether or how to march in Jerusalem.”
However, just a day later – coinciding with continued Israeli strikes on Gaza and renewed Palestinian rocket-fire, resistance missiles landed in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
Coming as a shock to Israel and a major change in the ‘rules of engagement,’ the rocket-fire on Jerusalem prompted the Israeli government to announce a total freeze of ceasefire talks.
In a statement, the PIJ said: “The bombing of Jerusalem is a message that the eyes of the resistance are open to the holy city, and see everything that the enemy is planning there,” referring to dangerous excavations and an Israeli scheme for ‘Judaization’ of the area.
“The current battle is approaching the date of the march of the flags, and this encourages us to continue,” the PIJ statement added.
Every year, the flag march falls on ‘Jerusalem Day,’ during which Israelis commemorate the illegal annexation of east Jerusalem during the 1967 war.
During last year’s flag march, over 160 Palestinians were injured by Israeli troops and settlers. The march came around two weeks after Israeli forces shot and killed renowned Al-Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh.
During the march, settlers were heard chanting “Death to Arabs” and “Shireen is dead.”
An anonymous Egyptian official told The Times of Israel on 12 May that “this rally already poses a threat to stability … if the fighting is still ongoing by then, it will be much harder to stop.”
“It is likely that Hamas will ride this wave and join as well,” the official said, calling for a swift implementation of a truce.