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East Jerusalem: US urges calm ahead of far-right Israeli march

Thousands of ultra-nationalist Israelis will take part in Thursday's annual flag march, raising fears of confrontation
Israeli ultra-nationalists wave national and party flags during a 'flag march' in Jerusalem on 20 April 2022 (AFP)

The US has urged calm and restraint ahead of an expected march by thousands of Israeli ultra-nationalists through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the State Department's principal deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said Washington would “continue to urge the parties to refrain from actions and rhetoric and activities that would inflame tensions”.

The Jerusalem Flag March, also known as the Jerusalem Day March, is an annual event that takes place in Jerusalem, particularly in the Old City.

The event is held on Jerusalem Day, which marks the Israeli conquest and occupation of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war.

Patel said the US believes “in the right of… individuals to express themselves and to do so peacefully” while “urging all parties to maintain calm, to exercise restraint” and avoid any escalation of tensions.

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This year, Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a history of ties to nationalist far-right groups, is expected to attend the rally, exacerbating tensions. 

The Jerusalem Flag March is viewed by many Palestinians and international observers as a demonstration of Israeli triumphalism and a celebration of Israeli control over East Jerusalem. 

The march is also seen as reinforcing Israel's claim to the entire city, including the predominantly Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, which is recognised as occupied by the international community.

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Palestinian-specific curfews, shuttered businesses, vandalism and racist slurs are just some of the impositions and offences Palestinians have to endure on the day, while ultra-nationalists and settlers sing and dance on their streets, protected by police.

Critics also see the march as a symbol of Israel's ongoing settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

This year's Jerusalem Flag March comes less than a week after a tentative ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, following five days of conflict that left at least 33 Palestinians dead, including six children and three women.

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