Photo: AFP
The annual march
Photo: AFP

Clashes at Damascus Gate ahead of Jerusalem Day celebrations

Dozens of Palestinians hurl stones and bottles at police, lightly wounding one officer; two Palestinians arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer.

Dozens of Palestinians threw stones and bottles at police near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday afternoon, as more than 30,000 Israelis were marking Jerusalem Day with a march to the Western Wall.



Police forces were deployed to the Damascus Gate to secure the thousands of participants who arrived there for the annual Jerusalem Day march, marking 48 years since the divided city was reunited in the 1967 Six-Day War.


The march, which takes place every year since 1968, left from the city center and headed towards the Damascus Gate, going through the IDF Square, and from there to the Western Wall through the Muslim Quarter.


The march culminated at a ceremony at the Western Wall, attended by Bayit Yehudi's Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel.


The annual Jerusalem Day march at the Damascus Gate (Photo: AFP)
The annual Jerusalem Day march at the Damascus Gate (Photo: AFP)


Marchers 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" and "Free Palestine." Walls of paramilitary Israeli border police kept the sides apart from one other, although some scuffles took place.


Later, the police dispersed the Palestinians' protest, saying it was an illegal gathering without the necessary permits.


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 march going through Jerusalem (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The march going through Jerusalem (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


March participants drew much criticism over the years from left-wing organizations, who claimed that some of participants were harassing the Arab residents of the city during the march.


The organizations Ir Amim and Tag Meir petitioned the Supreme Court, demanding not to allow the marchers go through the Muslim Quarter on the grounds that it opens up the door for racist harassment.


The two organizations presented the court with videos showing marcher calling out racist slurs at Arabs like "Death to Arabs" and "May your village burn." They also claimed the Muslim merchants have been advised by police to close shop early ahead of the march.


The Supreme Court rejected the petition last week, noting it did so "with a heavy heart." In their ruling, the justices stressed there should be "zero tolerance" of anyone involved in violence, and that police should arrest anyone chanting "death to Arabs."


Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said there would be both uniformed and undercover officers on the streets, without giving numbers.


Police near the Damascus Gate, where Palestinians were protesting (Photo: Roi Yanovsky)
Police near the Damascus Gate, where Palestinians were protesting (Photo: Roi Yanovsky)


"The police will show zero tolerance to any display of physical or verbal violence, will act with every means at its disposal against anyone disturbing the peace or rioting, who will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," she said.


The organizers turned to participants ahead of the march as well, urging them to keep law and order so the event could be a celebration and a significant experience.


Anti-racism group Tag Meir is to hold a counterdemonstration outside city hall to protest against what it called the "march of hate".


It said the annual march had become "a focus for extremist groups" and was routinely accompanied by "racist slurs and insults, destruction of property and physical violence against the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem".


"This year we say a loud and clear 'No to the violence, the hatred and the incitement' which threaten the delicate fabric of daily life in Jerusalem," it said.


The group said its supporters would walk through the Muslim Quarter handing out flowers to residents as a gesture of peace and coexistence.


Later Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to join President Reuven Rivlin for a ceremony on Ammunition Hill in East Jerusalem, a former Jordanian military post that saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the 1967 war.


Today, there are some 200,000 Israelis living in 15 neighborhoods beyond the Green Line alongside a Palestinian population of 310,000.


The Palestinians want the eastern sector of the city as capital of their promised state, and vigorously oppose any attempt to extend Israeli control.


But Israeli leaders have repeatedly vowed that the city will never again be split, referring to it as the "eternal, indivisible" capital of the Jewish people.



AFP contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 05.17.15, 17:52
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