JERUSALEM: The Islamist Hamas group that runs the Gaza Strip is looking to impose new red lines in Jerusalem, epicentre of the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, even if that risks provoking another war.

For years, flag-waving Israeli nationalists have staged an annual march through Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s capture of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East war.

The procession through the narrow streets of the Muslim quarter was always controversial, but legal efforts to ban the event failed, with supporters arguing that it was a legitimate festival marking an extraordinary moment in Jewish history.

Hamas significantly raised the stakes last year, firing rockets into Israel minutes after the 2021 march kicked off, triggering an 11-day war. Leaders of the group say they are ready for renewed violence on Sunday if the Israeli government does not keep this year’s march out of Muslim neighbourhoods.

“They can avoid a war and escalation if they stop this mad (march),” Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, told Reuters in Gaza this week.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2022

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