La Gaceta De Mexico - Israeli nationalists march through Jerusalem's Old City

Israeli nationalists march through Jerusalem's Old City
Israeli nationalists march through Jerusalem's Old City / Photo: © AFP

Israeli nationalists march through Jerusalem's Old City

Thousands of flag-waving Israelis on Sunday marched into the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City during a nationalist procession that regularly stokes Palestinian anger, a year after Jerusalem tensions exploded into war.

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As Jewish crowds, some chanting "death to Arabs", marched through the streets for an annual "flag march" marking Israel's 1967 capture of east Jerusalem, some Palestinians hurled projectiles from the rooftops.

More than 2,000 police officers were deployed across Jerusalem, reporting more than 20 arrests over "disorderly conduct".

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 40 Palestinians were injured across the Old City.

Across annexed east Jerusalem, many Palestinian flew flags, with police clashing with the protesters carrying them.

During the march, thousands of Jewish Israelis -- overwhelmingly men, and many of them youths -- poured through Damascus Gate, the main Old City thoroughfare used by Palestinians and of huge symbolic importance.

Dozens of Israelis hoisted flags on the gate, while others sang and celebrated on the surrounding steps, where isolated clashes were reported ahead of the march.

Other Jewish nationalists danced in front of Palestinians, one of whom raised his shoe in an Arab insult.

There were also counter rallies held in the occupied West Bank, with Israeli security forces clashing with Palestinians in several sites.

The Red Crescent reported a total of 58 Palestinians wounded, including in Ramallah and the Nablus area.

- Pro-Israel chants -

Earlier, Jewish nationalists chanting pro-Israel slogans, among them a far-right lawmaker, had visited Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa compound, located on Old City land that Jews revere as the Temple Mount.

Police reported that Palestinians had thrown rocks towards them from inside the mosque.

Police said that some 2,600 people had ascended to the compound during Sunday's regular visitation windows -- a figure that is higher than normal and includes tourists.

Some Jews had "violated visitation rules" and several people were detained, police said without providing further details, before the day's visits concluded.

One group sang pro-Israel chants, shouting "Jerusalem belongs to us only".

Far-right nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, who was among those who went to Al-Aqsa, later said his visit aimed "to reaffirm that we, the State of Israel, are sovereign" in the Holy City.

The march comes a year after tensions and unrest in Jerusalem led the Islamist armed group Hamas to fire rockets at Israel from the blockaded Gaza Strip, triggering an 11-day war.

Hamas warned last week that marchers must not pass through the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, saying it would use all means to confront them.

The route of the march has never included Al-Aqsa, a site which Jewish groups are permitted to visit but where they are not allowed to pray.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett approved what he termed the "regular" route for the march, and urged participants to be "respectful."

The march is scheduled to culminate at the Western Wall plaza, which lies below Al-Aqsa and is the holiest site where Jews can pray.

- Fear of war -

Most of the international community does not recognise Israeli control over east Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of a future state.

Israel has since April been hit by a series of attacks targeting mostly civilians, and has in turn launched military raids targeting armed groups in the occupied West Bank.

Despite the recent violence, tensions have been more muted in the run-up to Sunday's rally compared to last year.

Security analyst Shlomo Mofaz judged that Bennett was betting on the likelihood that for now "Hamas does not have any interest in another war".

"The main policy of Hamas today is to encourage people inside Israel (to attack), while they continue to reconstruct the Gaza Strip," said the former intelligence officer.