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New Israel govt faces early test with far-right march

New Israel govt faces early test with far-right march”

"The time has come for Israel to threaten Hamas and not for Hamas to threaten Israel", prominent far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Twitter.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Shtayyeh also cautioned Israel against letting the march go ahead.

The Israeli air force launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip early Wednesday after militants in the Palestinian territory sent incendiary balloons into southern Israel, security sources and witnesses said.

The march posed a test for Israel's fragile new government as well as the tenuous truce that ended last month's 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas's warnings appeared to hinge on whether or not the march would pass through the Damascus Gate and into the heart of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

Palestinians consider the annual march, meant to celebrate Israel's capture of east Jerusalem in 1967, to be a provocation.

After capturing east Jerusalem in 1967, Israel annexed it in a move not recognised by most of the worldwide community.

Opposing the planned march, the Arab-majority Joint List party issued a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Barlev, requesting to have the event canceled entirely.

"We warn of the unsafe repercussions that may result from the occupying power's intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the Flag March in occupied Jerusalem tomorrow", Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Twitter.

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Throngs of mostly young religious men sang, danced and waved flags at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City that was cleared of its usual Palestinian crowds.

Yair Lapid, the architect of the new government, tweeted he believed the march had to be allowed but that "it's inconceivable how you can hold an Israeli flag and shout, "Death to Arabs" at the same time".

Damascus Gate is a focal point of Palestinian life in east Jerusalem.

Hamas had called on Palestinians to show "valiant resistance" to the march.

Rallies by far-right Jewish groups in Arab neighbourhoods have raised tensions in recent months, prompting a police intervention in the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound that triggered the deadliest flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2014. Palestinian protesters repeatedly clashed with Israeli police over restrictions on public gatherings during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April and May.

During May's 11 days of cross-border violence, more than 240 people were killed in Gaza and at least 12 were killed in Israel.

The iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the heart of the Old City is Islam's third holiest site and a national symbol for all Palestinians regardless of religion.

The Israeli military has made preparations for a possible escalation in Gaza over the march, Israeli media reported, and the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem prohibited its employees and their families from entering the Old City on Tuesday.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with the military chief of staff, the police commissioner and other senior security officials.

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