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Israeli Nationalist March Through Jerusalem Has Heightened Tensions Further


Thousands of Israelis waved flags and marched in a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem, asserting Israeli control over the city. The march had been delayed from last month out of concern it would escalate the violence in the city just as fighting was breaking out between Israel and Hamas. As NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Jerusalem, today's event was less violent than feared.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in non-English language).

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Nationalist Israelis waved flags and wore them in a show of power over a part of the city Israel captured more than 50 years ago. The marchers shouted insults at Palestinians, but there were hardly any around to hear it. Before the marchers arrived, the police had cleared the streets with rubber bullets and sprayed a foul-smelling liquid. The march is a yearly event that usually takes place on May 10, known as Jerusalem Day, to mark when Israel captured the eastern side of the city in 1967 but was postponed this year as the first rockets from Hamas fell on Israeli citizens, followed by 11 days of fighting. For some, the march was an answer to Hamas, says Orel Fadida. He comes here every year.

OREL FADIDA: Last month in Jerusalem Day, the terrorist organization Hamas from Gaza Strip tried to kill our people. And this is - for me, it's very special because we are victory.

AMOS: It was also a test for the new coalition government on its second day in office. Hamas threatened to reignite tensions if the march went forward, but instead of rockets, Hamas sent a dozen incendiary balloons across the border. The new prime minister - Naftali Bennet, a right-wing politician aligned with the marchers - approved the event but altered the route to reduce confrontations with Palestinian residents. Israel's new foreign minister - Yair Lapid, a centrist - responded to reports of marchers yelling death to Arabs in a tweet, condemning it, saying it was not Judaism and not Israeli.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

AMOS: A Palestinian shopkeeper recorded this video of confrontations between the Israeli police and Palestinians resulting in more than 27 injuries, according to Reuters. A former Palestinian politician, Hanan Asrowi, tweeted that the only way that Israel can claim Jerusalem as its capital is to mobilize its security forces, brutalize and arrest Palestinian Jerusalemites and close down their shops and businesses.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.