US advises ‘caution’ for travelers in capital on Jerusalem Day
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US advises ‘caution’ for travelers in capital on Jerusalem Day

Consulate General issues message warning against visiting Old City, which has in previous years seen Jewish-Arab clashes

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Thousands of Israeli wave the national flag as they celebrate Jerusalem Day, dancing and marching their way through Damascus Gate to the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 17, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Thousands of Israeli wave the national flag as they celebrate Jerusalem Day, dancing and marching their way through Damascus Gate to the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 17, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The US Consulate General Jerusalem on Saturday issued a security message cautioning against visiting the capital during Jerusalem Day Sunday and the corresponding Naksa Day, marked by Palestinians.

The consulate also warned its citizens about travel to the Old City of Jerusalem over the coming month, the Muslim festival of Ramadan.

The message, which was also posted to the US State Department consular affairs Facebook page, noted that Sunday is celebrated by Israelis as the day East Jerusalem — including the Old City and the Temple Mount — was captured during the 1967 Six Day War, placing the Temple Mount under Israeli control.

“The day is marked by ceremonies, and large gatherings, and a march through Jerusalem,” the message said. “In previous years, clashes have erupted between Israeli and Palestinian residents during marches.”

“Consulate General employees and family members are encouraged to exercise caution when traveling throughout Jerusalem, especially the Old City on Sunday, June 5. If they do travel to the Old City they are being told to avoid the use of the Damascus, Lion’s, and Herod’s Gates.”

The message gave details of the annual celebration march, attended by tens of thousands, which begins in the central Independence Park and winds its way through downtown Jerusalem and into the Old City.

In parallel, some Palestinians mark the date as Naksa Day — Day of the Setback — to mark Israel’s conquest and occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, the consulate explained.

“While the Consulate General is unaware of specific planned activities in Jerusalem, demonstrations and counter-demonstrations have occurred in past Naksa Days which resulted in clashes with [the Israel Police],” the message said.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins late Sunday, is also a period requiring increased caution, the consulate advised.

“For US Direct Hire (USDH) employees and family members the Old City is off-limits on Fridays during the month of Ramadan due to overall congestion and associated security concerns. An increased number of visitors, heavy police presence, and traffic restrictions in and around Jerusalem’s Old City are expected.”

Muslims around the world mark Ramadan as a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. Adherents follow a lunar calendar and a moon-sighting methodology that can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart.

“United States citizens are reminded to maintain awareness of their safety and surroundings while living and working in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel,” the consulate added. “Large gatherings, even ones intended to be peaceful, can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Please be aware of your surroundings, monitor local information sources, and maintain a high degree of situation awareness as appropriate for this complex and fluid security environment.”

On Friday Israel announced it was relaxing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians to and from the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the month of Ramadan.

The measures, similar to those of previous years, were announced by COGAT, the unit which manages civilian affairs in the West Bank under the auspices of newly appointed hardline Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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