Israeli media have shown images and videos of Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir accompanied by police officers at the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem. The right-wing nationalist politician apparently also visited the plateau that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately issued a statement condemning “the extremist minister Ben-Gvir’s storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque.” It is an “unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict”. The government of neighboring Jordan, which formally controls the Temple Mount, also “strongly condemned the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the violation of its sanctity”.
In a tweet, Ben-Gvir declared that the Israeli government would “not submit to an organization of nefarious murderers” – meaning the radical Islamist Hamas, which had previously threatened escalation in the event of a visit.
fear of violence
The Minister for National Security in the recently sworn-in new cabinet under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously announced the move, triggering violent reactions. Opposition leader Jair Lapid warned that this could lead to violence. A demonstrative visit by the later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount during the election campaign in autumn 2000 is considered one of the triggers for the second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising from 2000 to 2005.
Jewish believers are only allowed to enter the Temple Mount at certain times, but are not allowed to pray there
The Temple Mount on the edge of Jerusalem’s old town is an important place of pilgrimage for both Jews and Muslims: in Islam it is the third holiest place after Mecca and Medina. In Judaism, it is even the most important place where two temples are said to have once stood. Jews come to pray at the Wailing Wall at the foot of the mountain, but prayer on the plateau itself is reserved for Muslims. Ben-Gvir’s “Jewish Strength” party is demanding prayer rights for Jews on the Temple Mount.
ehl/sti (rtr, dpa)