18 arrested during Israeli nationalist flag march through East Jerusalem

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“We need revenge,” said one protester, Noam Goldstein, 15, a high school student from a small Israeli settlement near the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank. “They committed attacks against us, so we must be avenged. That doesn’t mean we have to kill every last one of them.”

But he added: “I want all this land to be ours.”

After the founding of Israel in 1948, Jerusalem was divided in two: Israel controlled the western neighborhoods of the city, while Jordan controlled the largely Palestinian eastern part of Jerusalem. During the 1967 Middle East War, Israel captured East Jerusalem and later annexed it, a move not recognized by most countries, which still consider it occupied territory.

Tensions inflamed by the annual demonstration to commemorate the seizure of power helped spark an 11-day conflict in May 2021 between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas. Hamas fired rockets into Jerusalem as the march was about to begin, setting off warning sirens and sending thousands of people seeking refuge.

On Wednesday, Shilo Tzoref, a 19-year-old student at a religious school, or yeshivah, tried to distance himself from some of the more violent chants. “The central idea is that Jerusalem belongs to us,” he said. “You shouldn’t beat up every Arab you see on the street. It is a holy day celebrating Jerusalem, it is not about fighting our enemies.”

Last Wednesday, some Israeli Jews had ascended to the Noble Sanctuary, a hotly contested holy site known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Under a long-standing agreement, non-Muslims can visit the sensitive holy site, but only Muslims can pray.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Minister of National Security and far-right political leader, also joined the march. Ben-Gvir, who has long pushed for Jewish worship in the Noble Sanctuary, said Jews prayed freely on the Temple Mount in accordance with orders given to the police, in contrast to the status quo.

“We are here to tell them that Jerusalem is ours, the Damascus Gate is ours and the Temple Mount is ours,” Ben-Gvir told reporters at the march.

In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying: “The status quo on the Temple Mount has not changed and will not change.”

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