Israeli settlers and Palestinians in Jerusalem Day stand-off
An extremely heavy police presence and periodic violent confrontation marked Jerusalem Day on 20 May, as thousands of Israelis attempted to march through the traditionally Palestinian area of East Jerusalem.
Tensions began to build around 4pm, when groups of Israelis and Israeli settlers began to mass around the Old City’s Damascus gate.
Waves of confrontation broke out as Israeli security services attempted to clear the road of counter demonstrations, journalists and observers in advance of the main demonstration.
Observer Bassem Hallak explained the feelings of East Jerusalemites towards the Israeli security services and the protest:
“They completely ignore the existence of Palestinians in Jerusalem first of all. Second of all the humiliation they create, the isolation which they create for the Palestinian people. And they give all the rights for those fanatic settlers to do whatever they want.”
Israelis and settlers sought to celebrate Jerusalem Day, which they regard as marking the unification of the city in 1967, by asserting what they see as their right to East Jerusalem.
Smaller counter demonstrations by Palestinians from East Jerusalem faced increasingly heavy repression by Israeli security services as more Israelis and settlers gathered.
Around 7pm, as the march reached its peak, with 50,000 Israelis and Israeli settlers lining the stretch of road on the Eastern side of Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinian protestors and other observers were chased down sidestreets by riot police on horseback.
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