Police finalize preparations for Jerusalem flag march, decry misinformation

Thousands of officers will be deployed along the march route, and special technological means will also be employed to secure the event, including drones and cameras.

By Shimon Sherman, JNS

Jerusalem police have finalized security preparations for Thursday’s annual flag march in Jerusalem. Police have been working “hand in hand” with the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command and Jerusalem City Hall to prepare for the event, said Jerusalem District Police Chief Superintendent Yoram Segal in a statement on Wednesday.

The march, typically featuring thousands of Israeli youths waving Israeli flags, is part of the annual Jerusalem Day festivities and celebrates the city’s reunification in the 1967 Six-Day War. Setting out from the city center, the procession will pass through the Old City’s Damascus Gate and proceed through the Old City to the Western Wall. The route does not pass through the adjacent Temple Mount.

More than 2,000 police officers will secure the march’s route through the Old City, and more than 1,000 security personnel will be on duty at other celebratory events in the Israeli capital.

Several streets would be closed in the city on Thursday, but the restrictions have been designed to accommodate those living along the march’s route, including in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, as much as possible, said Segal.

“We will attempt, to the best of our power, to allow everyone who is not participating in the march to go about their daily lives without being affected by this event,” he said.

According to Mirit Ben-Mayor, chief superintendent of the Israel Police spokesperson’s unit, preparations for the event included liaising with local businessmen and community leaders.

“We have been working with everyone, including both Muslim and Jewish leaders, as well as commercial businessmen, to prepare them for this day and make sure everyone is aware of the details. Good communication between police and community leaders is a major part of the work that we have been doing to prepare for this day,” he said.

Ben-Mayor also addressed allegations of radicalism that have appeared in both foreign and local media, dismissing it as “disinformation.”

“There has been a lot of incitement and disinformation surrounding this march. This is a festive event, and 99% of the people that will be taking part in it are peaceful people who are here to celebrate, and to reach the Western Wall” he said. The local population, including the Arab population of the Muslim Quarter, were aware that the purpose of the march is celebration and not provocation, he added.

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Police also warned that any attempt to disturb the peace would be met with a harsh response.

“There is a small minority on both sides that may try to agitate or break the law,” said Ben-Mayor. “This minority who may choose to commit illegal action during the march will be prosecuted to the full extent of Israeli law. We will not allow anyone from any side to disturb the peace or endanger people’s safety. It is crucial to understand that this is not the purpose of this march; this march is a celebration of the reunification of the city,” he added.

Segal echoed the message, saying, “We will not allow violence from any part of the community.”

In fact, said Segal, police have already detained several people for incitement and threats.

In addition to officers being deployed along the march route, technological means will also be employed to secure the event, including drones and cameras, said Ben-Mayor.

Segal said that the police view this event no differently than any other major religious festival in the city, whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic or secular.

“We protect Christian festivals, and we also are very involved in religious events during the holy month of Ramadan. In the same way, we will protect the right of Jewish people to march to the holy site of the Western Wall to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem.”

Sagal further said that Thursday’s events will not influence other religious practices across the city, specifically on the Temple Mount.

“We will maintain freedom of worship in the main religious places open to the public. Jewish visits to the Temple Mount will commence according to the usual schedule and the Muslim entrances to the Temple Mount will not be touched,” he said.

Police had proposed a general closure on Judea and Samaria on Thursday due to threats from Palestinian terrorist groups, but the move was opposed by the Israeli defense establishment, Israel National News reported on Thursday morning, citing Army Radio.