Israel cancels event at French cultural centre in Jerusalem

Israeli border police surround the entrance of the French cultural centre in annexed east Jerusalem during a previous diplomatic spat over an event it hosted in 2009 (AFP Photo/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli authorities entered a French culture centre in Jerusalem on Thursday to cancel an event, alleging it was to involve an association supported by the Palestinian Authority, a diplomatic source said.

In a rare move, police entered the centre in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the source with the French consulate said.

An order posted on the door of the building by Israeli authorities said that the centre, which is connected to the French foreign ministry, intended to host an event organised with a women's association "sponsored or financed by the Palestinian Authority" and "without authorisation."

The centre remained open after the police operation.

Israel considers all Palestinian Authority activities in Jerusalem illegal.

The consulate could not confirm if the association was indeed financed by the PA, but Palestinians who were to participate in the event said the allegation was false.

After police arrived, France's consul general went immediately and protested against the action at an institute "belonging to our diplomatic and cultural network," the diplomatic source said.

The consul called on police "to leave the location," and security forces left in the late morning, the source said, adding that the consulate took the incident "seriously."

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while Israel's foreign ministry declined to comment.

According to the association that was to participate in the event, its director and a volunteer were briefly detained.

"It was an event related to Mother's Day" and to sell crafts made by women from Jerusalem, said one of the women who was to participate, declining to give her name.

Similar events occur on a near-monthly basis, she said.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.