Israeli police are on high alert in Jerusalem Sunday for the March of the Flags, a parade that marks Israel's conquest of the Palestinian area of the city. There are fears of another conflagration.
Last year, after days of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in East Jerusalem, Palestinian militant Hamas launched rockets into Israel on the day that was scheduled for the march. This preluded to an eleven-day war. There was no conflict between the two camps.
The police have activated 3,000 officers to assist in the "Yom Yerushalaim", or "Jerusalem Day", march that is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. GMT). .
This parade is Israel's "reunification of the Holy City" following the 1967 occupation of its Palestinian portion. The historic route traverses the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem without stopping at the Mosques esplanade, which is the center of Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Palestinian groups threatened to "respond", if violence occurs during the march. Participants could still go to the Esplanade of the Mosques which is the third holiest place in Islam and also the holiest in Judaism, under the name of the "Temple Mount".
"We will not hesitate (to use all means possible) to stop any incursion into our sacred places. Israel will be paying a heavy price for this," stated Ghazi Hamad of Hamas' political bureau. Hamas is the ruling Islamist movement of Gaza and claims it is fighting "Judaization."
The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett assured that the march would proceed according to plan, even though it was under pressure. This meant that it would pass through the Old City, but not take a detour through the esplanade.
He considers the march a "personal test, even personality test", in order to distinguish himself from Benjamin Netanyahu, his predecessor who was in power last year during both the march and war.
"Netanyahu had struggled, hesitated and made a decision to allow the march, but Hamas threatened to stop it. We still had rockets [...] Bennett chose an alternative strategy with a calm, calculated policy [...]", that continues the "Yediot".
This calculation is what? "That Hamas does not want to embark on a new war [...] as it focuses on Gaza reconstruction," stated Shlomo Mofaz, security analyst and ex-highly placed Israeli military intelligence.
Israel has granted thousands to Palestinians from Gaza work permits on its territory in recent months. Their salaries help to revive this enclave that is suffering from endemic unemployment.
Ghassan Alian, an Israeli commander, said that "undermining security stability would threaten its efforts (economic) success" in reference to Hamas Saturday evening.
Shlomo Molaz notes that Hamas may not have an economic interest in an escalation of violence in Jerusalem. This could lead to Palestinian deaths or injuries, and it or other Palestinian armed group like Islamic Jihad, taking the offensive.
Iran, Israel's most powerful enemy and supporter for Hamas/Islamic Jihad is another element at risk.
According to "New York Times", Israel indicated to Washington that it was responsible for Sayyad Khadai's death. He was a senior officer of Revolutionary Guards, an ideological army of Iran. He was shot near Tehran on May 22nd.
Schlomo Mofaz imagines that Iran might encourage Hamas or Islamic Jihad to launch rockets at Israel.
Tor Wennesland (UN chief mediator for Middle East), called on Israelis to show "maximum restraint" to "avoid a new conflict that would only lead more deaths." The international community has a clear message: Stop further escalation.