Israeli ministers were holding a special cabinet meeting at Ammunition Hill on Sunday to celebrate Jerusalem Day when the Jewish state captured the Arab eastern sector 45 years ago during the Six-Day War.
Celebrations were lined up throughout the day with formal ceremonies, parties and the annual flag march through east Jerusalem to mark the “reunification” of the city which took place after the 1967 Middle East war.
For Israel, which annexed the eastern sector in a move not recognized by the international community, Jerusalem is its “eternal and undivided capital.”
But for the Palestinians, east Jerusalem is where they want the capital of their promised state.
There were to be several memorial ceremonies throughout the city for those who fell during the Six-Day War, followed by the flag march which normally draws tens of thousands of marchers, many of them religious Zionist nationalists.
In the early evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend a state ceremony at Ammunition Hill in east Jerusalem, a former Jordanian military post that saw some of the bloodiest fighting and which now houses preserved trenches, battle fortifications and a museum.
Security was tight throughout the city, with thousands of police on duty to secure the events, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“Thousands of police officers are being deployed throughout the city to avoid any disturbances along the route of the march which is expected to begin around 5:30 pm (1430 GMT),” he said of the annual flag march.
Police said they were expecting more than 25,000 to attend the parade, which this year will begin near Netanyahu’s residence and wind its way towards the walled Old City before ending at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
Women were expected to enter the Old City through Jaffa Gate, while the men were to walk clockwise around the ancient walls, passing Damascus Gate, the main entrance from east Jerusalem, and continuing until the Dung Gate in the city’s southern wall, a police statement said.
Last year, the march began in the sensitive east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, with some marchers chanting anti-Arab slogans which sparked clashes and a handful of arrests.