On Jerusalem Day, Israel PM vows not to divide city
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. REUTERS PhotoPolice closed off the flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound to visitors on Wednesday as Israelis marked Jerusalem Day, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledging to never allow the city to be divided.
The annual celebration, which began at sundown on Tuesday, recalls the moment when Israeli forces took over the walled Old City in what was then Jordanian-held east Jerusalem on the third day of the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel later annexed the entire eastern side of the city in a move never recognised by the international community.
"Forty-seven years ago, Jerusalem was unified, and it will never be divided again," Netanyahu said at a special parliamentary session marking the day.
Police closed off the Al-Aqsa compound after Palestinian youths threw stones at the security forces as a group of Jewish visitors was touring the site, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
Located in the heart of the Old City, the volatile compound is the third holiest site in Islam but also the most sacred site in Judaism because it was the site where the two Jewish temples stood. Due to the sensitivity of the site, Jews are not allowed to pray there.
Samri said the compound would remain "closed to (non-Muslim) visitors because of Jerusalem Day celebrations at the Western Wall," which lies just below.
Tens of thousands of Jews were expected to march to the Western Wall later in the day, in a traditional event that tends to spark friction with Palestinians in east Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, police arrested a Palestinian near an entrance to the Old City for spraying Jews with tear gas.
Israel considers Jerusalem its "indivisible" capital, while Palestinians insist east Jerusalem be the capital of their future state.
A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said they would never agree to a peace agreement without Israel ceding east Jerusalem.
"The Palestinian, Arab and international position states that east Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine, there will not be an agreement without this solid truth," Nabil Abu Rudeina said in a statement on official Palestinian news agency WAFA.