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The far-right Israeli minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, entered the Temple Mount, in a move the Palestinians describe as an “unprecedented provocation.”
Israel’s far-right National Security Minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, entered the compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, in a move that threatens a backlash from the Palestinians, who called the action an “unprecedented provocation.”
Ben Gvir was seen touring the site on Tuesday under heavy guard.
“Our government will not surrender to the threats of Hamas,” Ben Gvir said in a statement released by his spokesman, after the Palestinian group that rules the besieged Gaza Strip warned that such a move was a “red line.”
Opposition leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid had warned that Ben Gvir’s visit would spark violence.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by extremist minister Ben Gvir, and considers it an unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict.”
Ben Gvir was sworn in last week as part of a new government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu that includes far-right and religious parties.
The Meltdown: Despite reports of a postponement of the visit, far-right extremist Itamar Ben Gvir as Minister of National Security entered the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif early this morning. pic.twitter.com/AQ9njlWGXk
– Ir Amim English (IrAmim Alerts) January 3, 2023
In the complex, which is the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina, only Muslims are allowed to worship under the status quo. The Israeli far-right is trying to change that and allow Jews to pray at the site, despite opposition from many ultra-Orthodox Jews and a ban from rabbinic leaders.
Palestinians fear this will change the status quo, as far-right Israelis have called for a synagogue to be built on the site over the remains of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli media reported that Netanyahu was negotiating with Ben Gvir after it emerged that he was planning to enter the site.
The entry of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into the site in 2000 sparked the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada.
Ben Gvir’s stated intention to enter the site earlier this week drew threats from Hamas.
“Any escalation in Al-Aqsa Mosque will blow up the situation, and the occupation government will be responsible for that,” Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Al-Qanou said in a statement published on Monday.
Ben Gvir holds extreme right-wing views on the Palestinians and has called for their expulsion. He has repeatedly joined the Israeli settlers in storming Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The far-right politician also caused a wave of escalation in the occupied city after setting up an office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where Palestinians face mass expulsions.
A settler in Kiryat Arava, one of the most extremist settlements in the occupied West Bank (illegal under international law), Ben Gvir was convicted of inciting racism, destroying property, possessing propaganda material for organizing “terror” and supporting the “terrorist organization” – the banned Kach group which It belongs to Meir Kahane, which he joined when he was sixteen years old.
Last November, Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned in a leaked audio recording that “the whole world is worried” about Ben Gvir’s views.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian boy in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian health officials and witnesses. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli army on the incident.