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Israel breaks up “Arab capital” events in Jerusalem | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israeli police prevented Palestinians on Saturday from holding events in East Jerusalem marking the disputed city’s designation as a “capital” of Arab culture.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in a 1967 war and annexed it as the Jewish state’s “eternal and indivisible capital”, a move not recognised internationally. Palestinians demand East Jerusalem as capital of their own future state.

The Arab League named Jerusalem, which is also holy to Muslims and Christians, its “capital of Arab culture” for 2009, following on from Damascus last year. But Israeli authorities intervened to disperse Palestinian celebrations.

A police spokesman said some 20 Palestinians were detained at eight events in and around East Jerusalem, but there were no reports of violent confrontations.

In the neighbourhood of Ral al-Amud, police confiscated a torch, brought in from Syria, which was to have been lit at an inauguration rally at sundown, spokesman Shmulik Ben-Ruby said.

The crackdown was ordered by Israel’s Internal Security Ministry because the celebrations violated understandings with the Palestinian Authority, an interim body created in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under 1993 peace talks, Ben-Ruby said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said he planned to declare Jerusalem this year’s “capital of Arab culture” in an evening address to foreign dignitaries in nearby Bethlehem, a West Bank town.

But Palestinian officials said none of the dignitaries had plans to visit Jerusalem on Saturday. The initiative to name a capital of Arab culture was launched in 1995 by the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation. A different city is chosen each year.

Apart from the events planned in Jerusalem, celebrations are also set to take place in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, and in Gaza.

A planned celebration in support of the events set to take place in Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city, was also cancelled by police on Saturday.