Jerusalem’s Old City saw tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists march with flags yesterday to mark Israel’s capture of it, while tensions stayed high on the Gaza border.

Palestinians in east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, shut their shops and were barred from the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, a social spot, to clear the way for the marchers, some of whom threw rocks and bottles at journalists, an AFP reporter said.

Police said they arrested two people over the attack, an adult and a minor.

The United States, Israel’s main ally, on Thursday denounced the marchers’ “racist” chants against Arabs, with AFP reporters saying that many of them yelled anti-Arab slogans.

“We condemn the hateful chants such as ‘Death to Arabs’ during today’s marches in Jerusalem. The United States unequivocally opposes racist language of any form,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller tweeted.

In Gaza, thousands joined a rival flag day on the Israeli border, many of them waving Palestinian flags. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at anyone who came near the border fence, AFP reporters said.

A Palestinian security source in Gaza said Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the territory, shot a “warning rocket” into the sea, without giving details.

Before the Israeli march, the militant group said it “condemns the Zionist occupation (Israel)’s campaign against our Palestinian people in occupied Jerusalem”.

Two years ago, a war between Hamas and Israel broke out during the march after weeks of violence in Jerusalem that injured many Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Thursday morning that the celebrations took place in Jerusalem “75 years after it was restored as the capital of the reborn state of Israel, and 56 years after being reunited”.

Two of his far-right cabinet members, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, joined Thursday’s march, one of the events celebrating what Israelis call Jerusalem Day.

  • The blockaded Palestinian enclave saw 33 people killed, including many civilians, and two died in Israel, a citizen and a Gazan worker.

Some 2,500 police officers guarded the march, which started in the west of the city and then moved into east Jerusalem and through the Old City to the Western Wall, where it ended.

Palestinians with shops in the Old City shut them for the day before the march began.

Resident Abu al-Abed, 72, said he wished “to go home”. The marchers “are harmful, they walk and hit the doors of our shops and houses,” he told AFP.

Jewish and Palestinian youths scuffled as early marchers reached the Old City, with police saying that sometimes forces “had to act to stop friction and provocations”.

But the violence was much less than last year, when police fought with Palestinian counter-protesters outside Damascus Gate and wounded at least 79 people.

Officials who run the holy site said that 50,000 people joined Jewish prayers at the Western Wall in the evening.

Before the march, dozens of Jews — including at least three Likud party lawmakers from Netanyahu’s right-wing and a minister from Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power group — went to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site.

‘Giving in’ to extremists

Jews, who name it the Temple Mount and honour it as their religion’s holiest site, can visit but not pray.

One of them, Tom Nissani, was waiting for the march with an Israeli flag at Jaffa Gate.

“It’s our capital city, we have to show it, enjoy it, fight for it”, the 34-year-old West Bank settler who works for an organisation that supports Jewish presence on the tense site told AFP.

Transport Minister Miri Regev, from Netanyahu’s Likud, was among Israelis waving flags at Damascus Gate before the official rally.

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