Home west asia Scuffles, Arrests As Israelis Mark Jerusalem Day

Scuffles, Arrests As Israelis Mark Jerusalem Day

Israel counts all of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital, based on ancient Jewish roots in city. But such sovereignty has not been widely recognised abroad.
Jerusalem day celebrated by Israelis

JERUSALEM: Tens of thousands of flag-waving Israelis held an annual march through East Jerusalem on Wednesday to mark its capture in a 1967 war.

As in years past, some marchers scuffled with Palestinians in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, flashpoint site of shrines to the three major faiths. Police said 18 people, including some teenagers, were arrested. A journalist too was assaulted.

This time, tensions were further inflamed by the almost eight-month-old war against Palestinian Hamas in Gaza, and knock-on fighting with Hezbollah in Lebanon – among regional armed groups backed by Israel’s arch-foe Iran.

Israel counts all of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital, based on ancient Jewish roots in city. But such sovereignty has not been widely recognised abroad. Palestinians want the east of Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for future state.

“We are an ancient people, a people of brave warriors, we stood up as one man and defended ourselves,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet, in reference to the 1967 war against several Arab armies. “We are doing the same today against Hamas in the south, Hezbollah in the north and Iran in the east.”

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Police deployed 3,000 officers as a precaution and in hope of tamping down friction between Israelis and Palestinians.

Hamas issued a statement calling for “general mobilization and confrontation” in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Violence during the march in 2021 helped contribute to the start of a 10-day war between Israel and the Islamist movement. Hamas had warned it would react to what it considered incursions at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound and attempts by Jewish settler groups to forcibly displace Palestinian residents from their homes.

The police said the march would not enter the hilltop compound, the third-holiest site for Muslims and the holiest place for Jews, who revere it as Temple Mount, the site of two ancient Temples destroyed in antiquity.

Large numbers of Jewish visitors were reported to have entered the compound in the morning, under the arrangement with the Jordanian authority that administers the site which allows them to visit the compound but not to pray there.

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has called for the ban on Jewish prayer to be rescinded, described the march in martial terms.

“I am telling Hamas, that Jerusalem, Damascus Gate (in the Old City) and Al-Aqsa mosque belong to us,” he said. “We won’t give up until the victory. We won’t stop. We have to win.”

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In a career spanning over three decades and counting, I’ve been the Foreign Editor of The Telegraph, Outlook Magazine and The New Indian Express. I helped set up rediff.com’s editorial operations in San Jose and New York, helmed sify.com, and was the founder editor of India.com.

My work has featured in national and international publications like the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, Global Times and The Asahi Shimbun. My one constant over all these years, however, has been the attempt to understand rising India’s place in the world.

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