Palestinians have condemned a visit to a contested holy site in Jerusalem by a far-right Israeli minister as an “unprecedented provocation”.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has called for a harder line towards the Palestinians, walked around the site surrounded by police.
Competing claims to the compound bitterly divide Israel and the Palestinians.
Tensions have risen with the advent of Israel’s new nationalistic government.Mr Ben-Gvir’s visit was his first public act since the government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was sworn in five days ago.
“The Temple Mount is open to all,” Ben-Gvir said on Twitter, using the Jewish name for the site.
ממשלת ישראל שאני חבר בה לא תיכנע לארגון מרצחים שפל. הר הבית פתוח לכולם ואם החמאס חושב שאם הוא יאיים עליי זה ירתיע אותי, שיבינו שהשתנו הזמנים. יש ממשלה בירושלים! pic.twitter.com/vgDYBYacJG
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) January 3, 2023
Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem in a move Palestinians called a “deliberate provocation”, ignoring warnings from Israeli politicians that his appearance at the holy site would inflame tensions.
Ben-Gvir said he would not “surrender to the threats of Hamas” after the Palestinian group warned that his entrance to the site on Tuesday would cross a “red line”.
The minister, widely regarded as a provocateur, has previously called for the displacement of Palestinians.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Palestinians to “confront the raids into Al Aqsa mosque”. He accused Ben-Gvir of staging the visit as part of a bid to turn the shrine “into a Jewish temple”.
The Al Aqsa compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is Islam’s third-holiest site. It is also Judaism’s most sacred site, a vestige of two ancient temples of the faith.
On Tuesday, pious Jews fasted to commemorate a Babylonian siege on the first of those temples, in the 6th century BC.
Ben-Gvir oversees Israeli police who are formally tasked with enforcing the ban on Jewish prayer at the compound.
Israel deems all of Jerusalem its indivisible capital — a status not recognised internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, where the compound is located, as capital of a future state also taking in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“If Hamas thinks that it can deter me with threats, it should understand that times have changed,” Ben-Gvir said on Twitter. “There is a government in Jerusalem!”
Yesterday The Israeli army killed two Palestinians in a West Bank raid on Monday as it demolished the homes of two Palestinians accused of killing an Israeli soldier, Palestinian officials said.
Mohammad Samer Hoshieh, 22, died after being shot in the chest, and Fuad Mohammad Abed, 25, after being shot in the abdomen and thigh during a raid by the Israeli army near Jenin.
Israeli soldiers had entered the village of Kafr Dan “in order to demolish the residences of the assailants who were involved in the shooting adjacent to the Gilboa (Jalame) Crossing, in which Major Bar Falah was killed,” Israel´s military said. Clouds of smoke engulfed the small village as two houses were levelled with explosives shortly after sunrise on Monday.