In a show of force that could have set off a new wave in violence in Jerusalem's tense streets, thousands of Israeli nationalists marched past the heart of Jerusalem's main Palestinian thoroughfare, chanting "Death To Arabs."
The large number of young Orthodox Jewish men in the crowd were celebrating Jerusalem Day, an Israeli holiday commemorating the capture and occupation of Jerusalem during the 1967 Mideast War. The parade, which passed through the Muslim Quarter's heart, is seen by Palestinians as a provocative act. The parade provoked an 11-day war between Gaza militants last year. This year's march was condemned by neighboring Jordan and the Palestinians.
Israel claimed that it had deployed thousands of security and police officers for the event. Violence broke out in the Old City between Jewish and Palestinian groups before the parade started.
Before entering the Muslim Quarter, groups of Orthodox Jewish youths assembled outside Damascus Gate waving flags and singing nationalistic and religious songs. Before entering the Old City, one large group shouted "Death to Arabs" and "Let Your Village Burn Down."
The area is a busy Palestinian thoroughfare and police cleared the area of Palestinians. Police intercepted a drone carrying a Palestinian flag that flew above the area at one point.
Bennett issued a statement later instructing police to have "no tolerance" for racist groups. He called them a "minority who came to set fire to the area" and promised to prosecute violent extremists, a step few Israeli governments have taken in recent years. Foreign Minister Yair Lepid described the racist groups as "a disgrace."
The march usually involves thousands of people, some shouting racist or nationalistic slogans at the Palestinians.
After weeks of unrest between Israeli-Palestinian Israelis in Jerusalem, authorities altered the march's route last year to avoid the Muslim Quarter. It was too late, as Hamas militants from Gaza launched a barrage missiles at Jerusalem just as the procession was about to begin. This set off eleven days of intense fighting.
Sunday's march occurred at a time when tensions were high. In recent months, Israeli police have faced stone-throwing Palestinian protestors in the disputed compound multiple times. They often fired rubber bullets or stun grenades.
In the meantime, 19 Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel and the West Bank, while more than 35 Palestinians were killed in Israeli military operations in occupied West Bank. Some were armed while others were accused of throwing stones and firebombs at soldiers. However, several others appear to not have been involved in violence, including Shireen Ab Akleh, an eminent correspondent for Al Jazeera satellite.