Israelis mark annexation of East Jerusalem
This year’s march came as Muslims prepare to begin observing the fasting month of Ramadan
Israeli police deployed in large numbers in Jerusalem on Sunday for an annual march marking the country’s 1967 seizure of the Palestinian-dominated eastern half of the city.
This year’s march came as Muslims prepare to begin observing the fasting month of Ramadan, when many Palestinians visit the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Israeli march for “Jerusalem Day” passed through the Muslim quarter of the Old City before arriving at the Western Wall, directly below the Al-Aqsa compound.
Tens of thousands of people joined the march, which began at around 5:15 pm (1415 GMT).
“We have more than 2,000 police just for the Jerusalem Day events,” Israeli police spokesman Asi Aharoni said ahead of the march.
Tight police supervision helped ensure the march went ahead in a relatively orderly fashion.
Police said two participants were arrested for making racist remarks to Arabs.
Israeli rights group Ir Amim had asked the Supreme Court to bar marchers from entering the Old City through the Damascus Gate, the main entry used by Palestinians.
The court rejected the appeal, but required the marchers to complete their passage through the Damascus Gate by 6:15 pm and through the Muslim quarter by 7:00 pm.
The time restrictions were originally imposed in case the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan began on Sunday night.
Young Jewish demonstrators gathered in the city center near the Old City ahead of the march, including religious students with separate processions for males and females.
At Damascus Gate, heavy security measures included barricades and nearby cafes catering to tourists were closed.
Small groups of young Jews waving Israeli flags and chanting nationalist slogans filed through the Muslim quarter.
Some shopkeepers closed their stores as a precaution.
“Last year they put glue to destroy my lock,” said shopkeeper Rimon Himo as he wrapped tape around his lock. “I learned my lesson.”
David Haim, 24, said it was important for him to take part in the march since there were “still obstacles to our sovereignty.”
“Every year, this pilgrimage reminds us the city is ours, the most natural and obvious place as Jews,” he told AFP.
While Israelis see the day as celebrating the “reunification” of Jerusalem, Palestinians view the 1967 war as resulting in the seizure of their land.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech on Sunday that “for 49 years Jerusalem is free of its shackles.
We won’t return to a reality of a divided and wounded city.”
Israeli media also quoted him as saying that “we will continue to build Jerusalem for all its residents”.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, whereas Israelis see all of Jerusalem as their capital.
The future status of Jerusalem is among the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.