Israeli police deployed in large numbers in Jerusalem to secure an annual march marking Israel’s 1967 invasion and subsequent occupation of the Palestinian-dominated eastern half of the city, which Arabs call the “Naksa” (setback).
This year’s march comes as Muslims prepare to begin observing the fasting month of Ramadan, when many Palestinians visit al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.
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The Israeli march for “Jerusalem Day” on Sunday also plans to pass through the Muslim quarter of the Old City before arriving at the Western Wall, which is directly below the al-Aqsa compound, leading to fears of tensions.
On June 5, 1967, Israel invaded Palestinian, Egyptian, and Syrian territories at once.
Six days later, it had occupied the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights.
Since that day, the West Bank and Golan Heights remain illegally occupied, while the Gaza Strip has been crippled under a nine-year blockade that has denied 1.8 million Palestinians their rights to access medical equipment, clean water, food and materials necessary to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals destroyed in repeated Israeli bombardments.
Israel’s occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 was never recognised by the international community.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the Occupied East Jerusalem, said there is a large police presence around the Damascus gate.
“Not all Israelis actually celebrate this day but certainly the Jewish settlers and the far-right supporters mark this day.
“There is a large police presence and that gives you a large indication that no one here is taking any chance. Shop owners have been asked to close their shops.
“What happened this year is that one of the non-profit organisations has petitioned to the High Court asking them to ban this march to go through the Muslim quarters. The High Court refused, but they put a time limit so by 7pm Jeruslaem time everyone should have evacuated here,” Abdel-Hamid said.
Some 30,000 demonstrators were expected at the march.
“We shall be there in very large numbers,” Israeli police spokesman Asi Aharoni said. “We have more than 2,000 police just for the Jerusalem Day events.”
Israeli rights group Ir Amim had asked Israel’s Supreme Court to bar the march 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 6:15pm and through the Muslim quarter by 7pm.
The time restrictions were in place in case Ramadan began on Sunday night. The start of Ramadan coincides with the sight of a new moon.
Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state. Israelis see all of Jerusalem as their capital.
The future status of Jerusalem is among the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.