JERUSALEM: Under heavy police guard, thousands of Israeli demonstrators on Sunday marched through Arab sections of Jerusalem’s Old City to celebrate Israel’s capture of the area nearly 50 years ago.
Police reported clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in several areas of east Jerusalem as Israel marked its annual “Jerusalem Day.” No serious injuries were reported.
Jerusalem Day commemorates Israel’s capture of the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war. The Old City is home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites, and nationalistic Israelis mark the day by marching through Arab areas of the Old City. The day, marked according to the Jewish lunar calendar, often experiences unrest.
In the main event of the day, thousands of Israelis, many waving flags or chanting nationalistic slogans, marched through Damascus Gate, the entrance to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and made their way to the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter.
The Jewish protesters danced, sang songs and chanted “Long live Israel,” while small groups of Palestinian counterdemonstrators held Palestinian flags and chanted, “With our souls and our blood, we will redeem Palestine.” Walls of paramilitary Israeli border police kept the sides apart from one other, although some scuffles took place.
Police said they arrested six Palestinians — four charged with stone throwing and two others for allegedly attacking police. They said four officers were lightly wounded by rocks thrown by Palestinian demonstrators.
The issue of Jerusalem is one of the most intractable in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem and the Old City after the 1967 war, but the annexation has not been recognized internationally. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, home to nearly all of the city’s 300,000 Arabs in addition to some 200,000 Jews, as the capital of their hoped-for state.
Israel views the entire city, including the Old City, as its eternal capital.
In a speech marking the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any compromise over the issue. “Jerusalem will remain united forever,” he said.