Jerusalem Day for many Israelis is a day to celebrate the conquest and reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. For Palestinians, though, it marks the annexation of East Jerusalem and beginning of the military occupation.
Tens of thousands of Israelis began their parade from Bab Al Amoud yesterday to celebrate the victory, heading to the Arab neighbourhoods near Al Aqsa Compound.
Several organisations including the Palestinian National Authority had, on Saturday, urged residents of occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank to resist the Israeli celebrations, in advance of the parade. Israeli Police had instructed Arab shops to shut down their businesses to avoid friction with the paraders. Sources told Gulf News that outlets which remained open had to pay a 50,000-shekel fine.
But according to the Times of Israel report, Palestinian spectators were mostly passive at the start of the parade. One man from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood who gave his name as Ali said, “It’s their day, let them enjoy it.” adding, “It’s my country, not theirs, but I have no strength, just God.”
The march started peacefully enough but tensions flared when fanatical Israeli teenagers began banging on doors in the Old City and shouting "death to Arabs".
Defying Israeli restrictions and heavy security, thousands of Palestinians later poured into occupied East Jerusalem to protect Al Aqsa Mosque from the marchers as they continued their parade through the Old City.
Shaikh Yousuf Edaise, head of the Palestinian Higher Judicial Council, urged Palestinians to defend Al Aqsa and spend the next few days in the holy compound. He said that Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims the world over should be on alert over Israeli plans for occupied East Jerusalem and he expected the Israelis participating in the parades to storm Al Aqsa Mosque.
Classes were suspended in schools in all the Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem yesterday and pupils headed to Al Aqsa Compound to spend the day praying and touring religious and historic sites.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation condemned in strongest terms the Israeli celebrations. Dr Wasel Abu Yousuf, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Gulf News that the celebrations were meant to show the world that Israel is not interested in peace.
By Helen Brooks and Gulf News
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