Israeli Ministers Call for Escalation in Gaza and Invasion of Lebanon at Provocative Flag Day March

Participants in the march chanted 'death to Arabs' and attacked Palestinians

On Wednesday, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir both called for Israel to escalate in Gaza and to invade southern Lebanon, The Times of Israel reported.

The two ministers made the remarks in speeches during the provocative flag march in the Old City of Jerusalem that commemorates Jerusalem Day, a celebration of the Israeli capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war.

Thousands of ultra-nationalist Israelis took part in the march, which involved chants of “Death to Arabs” and attacks on Palestinians. The crowd also attacked a journalist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

During his speech, Ben Gvir led the crowd in a chant of “victory” and said Israel could only win once it “enters all of Gaza and fights until victory.” He also said Israel needs to “go into the north and fight Hezbollah and destroy them.”

Smotrich called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “give the order” to go to “war” with Hezbollah. “Let our heroic warriors win, restore our national honor, national pride, and security, and allow the heroic residents to return home safely,” he said.

Netanyahu on Wednesday signaled he was considering an invasion of Lebanon, saying that Israel was “prepared for a very intense operation” along the northern border.

Ben Gvir also declared on Wednesday that “his policy” was that Jews could pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque, known as Temple Mount to the Israelis, whenever they want, going against the status quo at the compound.

According to Haaretz, it marked the first time the Israeli minister in charge of security at al-Aqsa deviated from the status quo. In a radio interview, Ben Gvir said he was “pleased that Jews went to the Temple Mount and prayed there today. This is very important. My policy is very clear on this matter – Jews can go everywhere in Jerusalem and pray anywhere, and not silently. Jews prayed on the Temple Mount, that is the minister’s policy. Jews prayed on the Temple Mount, and that is good.”

Later in the day, Ben Gvir reiterated his position. “I came back here to send a message to Hamas and every house in Gaza and the north … Jerusalem is ours. Damascus Gate is ours. The Temple Mount is ours. Today, per my policy, Jews freely entered the Old City, and Jews freely prayed on the Temple Mount. We say this as simply as we can: it’s ours,” he said, according to Haaretz.

Netanyahu pushed back on Ben Gvir’s comments, saying that “the status quo regarding the Temple Mount has not and will not change.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.