Several hundred ultra-nationalist Jews carrying Israeli flags march in defiance of police orders and despite condemnation by Israeli leaders.
Israeli police have blocked hundreds of far-right Jewish protesters from marching toward occupied East 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 Israel-blockaded Gaza struck Israel on Wednesday, causing slight damage to a home but no injuries, Israeli police said. No person or group 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 occupied West Bank raids, and a series of deadly 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 Israeli aggression on Gaza, 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 news agency 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."
Violence between Israel and Palestinians in and around the flashpoint Al Aqsa Mosque compound had flared last weekend after Israeli forces raided Islam's third-holiest site, wounding around 170 Palestinians, sparking protests and global condemnations.
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Tensions soar as Israeli forces attack Palestinians on Al Aqsa Mosque compound during the holy month of Ramadan. Here are five major incidents from this year so far pic.twitter.com/aTIRihndkS— TRT World (@trtworld) April 19, 2022
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.
Ben-Gvir, an ultra-nationalist lawmaker who frequently stages provocative visits to occupied Palestinian areas, attended the rally and was greeted with cheers. He is a disciple of a radical rabbi whose violently anti-Arab ideology was once shunned in Israel but is now having a revival.
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.
Israeli radical groups stage such marches to try to assert sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza, and annexed in a move not recognised internationally.
The Palestinians seek an independent state in all three territories and consider East Jerusalem their capital.
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