Israel's population exceeds 8m 65 years after independence

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel's population has passed the eight-million mark, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) said on Sunday, as the state prepared to mark 65 years since its founding.

"The population of Israel, on the eve of the 65th Independence Day, is 8,018,000 people," a CBS press release said, noting that Israel counted just 806,000 residents at the time of its establishment in 1948.

Israel's Jewish population stands at 6,042,000 people comprising 75.3 per cent, with the country's Arab minority 1,658,000 representing 20.7 per cent, and non-Jewish immigrants and their children at 318,000 making up 4 per cent of the nation's residents.

The statistics bureau counts among Israel's residents the roughly 270,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.

According to the CBS, since last year's Independence Day, Israel's population grew by 137,000 people.

The latest figures also showed that six Israeli cities have more than 200,000 residents: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon LeTzion, Ashdod and Petah Tikvah.

Israelis begin marking Independence Day on Monday evening, when residents will let off fireworks and gather in the streets of major cities to sing and party.

Tuesday marks the official celebration of the anniversary of the declaration of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. Israelis mark the day according to the Jewish calendar, which this year places the holiday on April 16.

Palestinians mark the occasion on May 15, when they commemorate the Nakba, or "catastrophe" of the creation of Israel, which sparked the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.