As the United States opened its embassy, Israeli forces killed at least 28 Palestinians along the Gaza border, health officials said, as demonstrators streamed to the frontier. Some 900 Palestinians were wounded, about 450 of them by live bullets, officials said.
Israel’s government regards Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the country. Palestinians say East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Jews call the city Jerusalem, or Yerushalayim, and Arabs call it Al-Quds (“The Holy”). At the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City is the hill known to Jews as Har ha-Bayit, or Temple Mount, and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary.
It was home to the Jewish temples of antiquity but all that remains is a restraining wall for the foundations built by Herod the Great. Known as the Western Wall, this is a sacred place of prayer for Jews. Within yards of the wall are two Muslim holy places, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Muslims regard the site as the third holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. Christians revere the city as the place where they believe Jesus Christ preached, died and was resurrected. In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly decided the then British-ruled Palestine should be partitioned into an Arab state and a Jewish state.
But it recognised that Jerusalem had special status and proposed an international rule for the city, along with nearby Bethlehem, as a ‘corpus separatum’ to be administered by the United Nations. That never happened.
When British rule ended in 1948, Jordanian forces occupied the Old City and Arab East Jerusalem. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. In 1980 the Israeli Parliament passed a law declaring the “complete and united” city of Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. But the United Nations regards East Jerusalem as occupied.