Thousands of Israeli far-right settlers have paraded through Muslim parts of the Old City of Jerusalem, putting the city on edge after violence during the same event last year helped spark an 11-day-war war in the Gaza Strip.
The annual Flag March, in which Israelis enter the highly symbolic Damascus Gate and walk through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall waving the national flag, takes place around sunset on what Israel calls Jerusalem Day, the celebration of the Israeli capture and annexation of occupied Jerusalem in the 1967 war, a move that is not internationally recognised.
Often accompanied by violence, the march through the bustling Muslim thoroughfare is seen as deeply provocative by the Palestinians.
On the day of the march, Israeli authorities force shop owners to close their businesses, while residents of the Muslim quarter are asked to remain indoors, and Jerusalemites are not allowed to enter the street.
Palestinian-specific curfews, shuttered businesses, vandalism and racist slurs are some of what Palestinians have to endure on the day, while police-protected Israeli ultra-nationalists and settlers sing and dance on their streets.
The tradition has been ongoing since 1967 but has grown steadily over the years. The march is organised by members of the Religious Zionism movement.
It includes participants from various pro-settlement groups such Bnei Akiva, Im Tirtzu and regional councils of the Binyamin and Gush Etzion illegal West Bank settlements.
This year, organisers announced that the procession on Sunday will be split into two parts and will allow up to 16,000 people to participate.
During the event, thousands of flag-waving, ultranationalist Israelis raided the Old City’s Muslim quarter.
Some chanted racist slogans including “Death to Arabs” and attacked Palestinian residents while backed by armed Israeli forces.
Some Jewish groups also stormed the Al-Aqsa compound raising fears among Palestinians that it was an attempt to change the status quo at Islam’s third holiest site.
Dozens of Palestinians were arrested across occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank a day earlier; where protests to decry the march erupted, while more than 165 suffered injuries ranging from heavy tear gas inhalation to beatings and wounds from live rounds, as well as rubber-coated steel bullets.
Following the march, large groups of Israeli settlers stormed through Palestinian neighbourhoods, assaulting residents as well as their property.
Some 70,000 Israelis were reported to have joined the annual march, which is seen as a bid by Israel to impose control over the occupied part of the city.