Israeli police stop Jewish nationalist march in Jerusalem amid rising tensions

·2-min read

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli police on Wednesday blocked hundreds of far-right Jewish protesters from marching toward Jerusalem's Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Old City's Muslim quarter, amid rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

Hours after the march, a rocket launched from Gaza struck Israel, causing slight damage to a home but no injuries, police said. No faction claimed responsibility for what is the second such attack in days.

A recent upsurge of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories has raised fears of a slide back to wider conflict. Since March, Israeli forces have killed at least 29 Palestinians in West Bank raids, and a series of deadly Arab street attacks have killed 14 people in Israel.

Confrontations in Jerusalem's Old City pose the risk of a relapse into a broader conflagration like last year's 11-day Israel-Gaza war, in which more than 250 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel were killed.

Several hundred protesters carrying Israeli flags began marching from a square near Jerusalem's municipality, according to a Reuters witness, in defiance of police orders and despite condemnation by several Israeli leaders.

The organisers said the march was an attempt to "bring back the feeling of safety to the streets of Jerusalem." Israeli leaders said the march was a "provocation."

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he ordered police to ban far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir from visiting Damascus Gate, following recommendations from security officials.

"I will not allow Ben-Gvir's political provocations to endanger the lives of Israeli soldiers and police," Bennett said in a statement.

The protesters scuffled with police to try and reach Damascus Gate, but rerouted to another Old City gate after the forces stopped them, a Reuters witness said.

Hamas, the Islamist group that rules blockaded Gaza, warned against the marchers approaching the holy site and said "the occupation's leadership" will bear full responsibility for the consequences of "such dangerous and provocative measures."

The Old City lies in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state. Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition after capturing the area in a 1967 war, regards all of Jerusalem as its eternal capital.

(Reporting by Eli Berlzon; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Henriette Chacar; Editing by Leslie Adler and Bill Berkrot)