(AFP) – Jul 15, 2011
JERUSALEM — Several thousand Israelis and Palestinians gathered in east Jerusalem on Friday for a protest march to support the Palestinian bid for United Nations recognition.
The marchers waved Palestinian flags and carried signs reading "everyone has the right to an independent state," "marching to independence" and "only free people can negotiate for peace."
The demonstrators marched from the Old City's Jaffa Gate to the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the site of weekly protests against efforts by Jewish settlers to move into largely Arab neighbourhoods in the city.
Organisers put the numbers at 5,000, public radio said only 2,000 took part and police said there were not even 500.
The Palestinians plan to ask the UN General Assembly to recognise a Palestinian state when the world body gathers in September, a move opposed by Israel which says progress can only be made through negotiations.
"This march has been considered by many as carrying special significance, since it will serve as a litmus test for the extent of popular support among Israelis and Palestinians for the diplomatic efforts for a declaration of independence," organisers said in a statement.
The route is the reverse of a march held last month by right-wing Israeli youths to commemorate Israel's capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel later annexed east Jerusalem, claiming the city as its "undivided and eternal capital," a move that has not been recognised by the international community.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their would-be state.
Organisers had said they feared right-wing Israeli groups would try to disrupt the march, but there were no immediate signs of disturbance amid a heavy police presence.
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