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Clashes as Israelis celebrate anniversary of East Jerusalem occupation

Thousands of right-wing Israelis took to the streets of Jerusalem's Old City and celebrated the anniversary of the 1967 occupation
Israeli youth sing and dance as they enter Jerusalem's Old City during the flag march (MEE/Oren Ziv)

Tens of thousands of Israeli settlers, right-wing activists and high-school students marched through Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday evening. 

The flag march marked 48 years since the occupation of East Jerusalem and the Old City by the Israeli army during the 1967 war.

The march passed through the Muslim quarter of the old city, and Israeli police officers forced Palestinian shop owners to close up, while Palestinian residents could not walk freely in the streets for hours.

Before the march, which started in Jerusalem's city centre and went toward the Damascus gate entrance to the Old City, some 100 Palestinians held a protest against the event.

A big police force pushed the protesters out of the area near the Old City. At least 10 protesters were arrested.

In West Jerusalem, a small group of left-wing activists held a vigil near the path of the march.

As the march entered the Old City, many Israeli youth taking part shouted "Death to all Arabs!", "Demolish the mosque, build the temple!" and ״Take revenge on the Palestinians!"

Some 500 Israeli protesters attacked Palestinian journalists and photographers covering the event, throwing sticks and trying to break their equipment. There were no reports that Israeli protesters were detained by police.

Palestinians residents of the Old City were standing behind police checkpoints as the march passed by, not allowed to work at their shops or return to their homes. 

One Israeli protester told MEE: "We came here to celebrate the day we occupied Jerusalem, this is all ours, and the Palestinian can go to Jordan. I wish them all the best there."

His friend, who was holding an Israeli flag, added: "There is no such thing as east Jerusalem, it is all Israel. We waited 200 years to go back to Jerusalem and I'm very excited to march here today."

A Palestinian woman who lives in the Old City and attended the protest told MEE:

"This is our city, and it is a provocation that the settlers are marching in our streets, forcing us to be locked at home."

A Palestinian man, blocked by the police from walking to his home, said: "Jerusalem is a city of peace, but we suffer from this march, which is backed by the Israeli government, who has brought settlers from across the West Bank, paying for their buses and food during the march."

Last week, a left-wing Israeli group appealed to the Supreme Court against the march, asking it not to allow the march to pass through the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem's Old City. The court did not accept the appeal but the judges ordered the police to prevent those taking part from chanting racist slogans, and ordered them to arrest anyone who broke the order.