Police clashed with Palestinians holding an unregistered demonstration outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday afternoon, dispersing the crowd and arresting 23 Palestinians.
A large crowd gathered outside the gate, chanting Islamist and Palestinian nationalist slogans. After the group began marching toward a nearby group of Israelis, who were holding a rally marking Jerusalem Day, mounted and regular police moved to break up the demonstration.
Police also arrested 13t Jewish youths for shouting racist epithets at Arabs.
Tens of thousands of Jerusalem Day celebrants, most of them teenagers, participated in this year’s annual march, which started in downtown Jerusalem, then circumnavigated the Old City before arriving at the Western Wall, via the Damascus Gate and the Arab Quarter.
Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem and unification of the city during the 1967 Six Day War, is celebrated, especially by the national religious community, with a mass march and rally in and around the Old City. The event often leads to confrontations with Palestinians and a heavy security presence in area.
At the central Jerusalem Day ceremony held at Ammunition Hill, President Shimon Peres lauded the city for its multiculturalism.
“Where else can you hear the prayers going up from the sacred Western Wall intermingled with the muezzin’s calls for worshippers to attend mosque and the ring of church bells?” asked the president. “Our ears are tuned to good news, the voices of peace. Even if they are distant, they are preferable to the trumpets of war… our people longs for peace and no threats will weaken our desires.”
Roads were closed around the Old City and nearby neighborhoods in order to accommodate the marchers.
Merav Ceren contributed to this report.