Jerusalem: Israeli nationalists chant racist slogans during parade

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Thousands of Israeli nationalists, celebrating Jerusalem Day, marched through the heart of the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, with some chanting “death to Arabs”.

In a show of force that risked setting off a new wave of violence in the tense city, the crowd, who were overwhelmingly young Orthodox Jewish men, was celebrating an Israeli holiday that marks the capture of the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war.

Palestinians see the event, which passes through the heart of the Muslim Quarter, as a provocation and last year, the parade helped trigger an 11-day war with Gaza militants.

This year’s march drew condemnations from the Palestinians and neighboring Jordan.

Israel said it deployed thousands of police and security forces for the event, and violent scuffles between Jewish and Palestinian groups erupted inside the Old City before the parade began.

As the march got underway, groups of Orthodox Jewish youths gathered outside Damascus Gate, waving flags, singing religious and nationalistic songs, and shouting “the Jewish nation lives” before entering the Muslim Quarter.

One large group chanted “Death to Arabs,” and “Let your village burn down” before descending into the Old City.

Police cleared Palestinians out of the area, which is normally a bustling Palestinian thoroughfare. At one point, a drone flying a Palestinian flag flew overhead before police intercepted it.

Ahead of the march, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that “flying the flag of Israel in the capital of Israel is an obvious thing,” but also urged participants to celebrate in a “responsible and respectful manner.”

Bennett later issued a statement instructing police to show “no tolerance” toward the racist groups. He described them as a “minority that came to set the area on fire” and vowed to prosecute violent extremists — a step that few Israeli governments have taken in the past.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the racist groups “a disgrace.”

Thousands of people normally take part in the march through the Muslim Quarter, including some who shout out nationalistic or racist slogans toward the Palestinians, before making their way to the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter on the other side of the Old City.

Last year, after weeks of Israeli-Palestinian unrest in Jerusalem, authorities changed the route of the march at the last minute to avoid the Muslim Quarter. But it was too late by then, and Hamas militants in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem as the procession was getting underway. That set off 11 days of heavy fighting.

Sunday’s march came at a time of heightened tensions. Israeli police have repeatedly confronted stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators in the disputed compound in recent months, often firing rubber bullets and stun grenades. (Source: AP News)

 

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