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Hamas warns against ‘flag march’ in East Jerusalem

GAZA CITY, Palestine — Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned on Sunday against a planned march by Jewish nationalists through Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, saying that the Palestinian Islamist group would use “all possibilities” to confront it.

The controversial so-called “flag march” is due to take place next week to mark Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the occupation of the city after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.

The route, provisionally approved by Israeli authorities, allows marchers to enter the Old City through the Damascus Gate, heavily used by Palestinians, en route to the Western Wall.

Israeli authorities have not approved a route that would see the march entering the flashpoint Al Aqsa Mosque Compound, and this has never happened in the past.

At a speech marking a year since an 11-day flare-up in the conflict between Israel and the group that rules Gaza, the Hamas leader alleged there had been “calls to storm Al Aqsa Mosque and hold a march of flags”.

“I warn the enemy against committing such crimes,” Haniyeh continued, adding that “the resistance… in Jerusalem and the West Bank will not allow or accept that such Jewish nonsense passes at Al Aqsa”.

“We will confront it with all possibilities and we will never allow the Al Aqsa Mosque to be violated,” he said.

Al Aqsa Mosque Compound is Islam’s third holiest site, while the Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray.

His remarks come after more than 70 Palestinians were wounded last week in confrontations with Israeli forces at a Jerusalem funeral, according to Palestinian medics, in unrest that Israeli forces said included “violent riots” which threatened officers’ lives.

This came days after Israeli Israeli forces stormed a funeral procession of Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist who was killed during an Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Al Jazeera and Palestinians say Israeli forces killed Abu Akleh, while Israel says she may have been killed by Palestinian gunfire or a stray shot from an Israeli soldier.

By long-held convention, Jews are allowed to enter Al Aqsa Compound but not to pray there.

Confrontations in Jerusalem last year precipitated the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas that saw 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, killed.

Israel has imposed a crippling air and sea blockade on Gaza since Hamas took power in the Palestinian enclave in 2007.

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