ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has joined the international community in condemning Israel’s new far-right national security minister’s provocative visit on Tuesday to Al-Aqsa mosque compound, warning that breaching the sanctity of the holy site could inflame tensions in occupied Palestinian territories.

“Al-Aqsa is a holy site revered by Muslims around the world. Violation of its sanctity offends the religious sensitivities of Muslims and inflames an already tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said on Wednesday while condemning the visit of Itamar Ben-Gvir to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

She said the visit by the Israeli minister was “insensitive and provocative”. “Israel must cease its illegal actions and respect the sanctity of Muslim religious sites in the occupied Palestinian territories,” she added.

 RAFAH (Gaza Strip): Protesters carry defaced posters depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and far-right Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir during a rally held on Wednesday to condemn the latter’s visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.—AFP
RAFAH (Gaza Strip): Protesters carry defaced posters depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and far-right Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir during a rally held on Wednesday to condemn the latter’s visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.—AFP

While reiterating Pakistan’s support for the Palestinian cause, she underscored Isla­mabad’s stance on the issue, which calls for the establishment of a viable, independent, and contiguous Palestinian State, with pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions.

Palestinians mull next moves after far-right minister’s provocative visit to holy site

Palestinians mull next moves

Meanwhile, Ben-Gvir’s tour stirred protests from across the Arab world and Western concern about long-standing understandings on non-Muslim access, add agencies.

Palestinians in Gaza are holding urgent talks on their next moves after the Israeli minister visited Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a step so far met with stern words rather than violence.

There have been fears controversial visit by Itamar Ben-Gvir could spark a war.

Palestinian group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, had earlier warned such a move would be a “red line”.

Hours after Ben-Gvir’s appearance at the sensitive site, Hamas and other militant groups held emergency meetings to discuss a “proportionate” response, sources within the movement told AFP.

In a related development, leading ultra-Orthodox Jewish figures supporting Israel’s coalition government on Wednesday criticised the minister’s visit to the flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem, adding internal religious dissent to a cascade of foreign censure.

One lawmaker accused Itamar Ben-Gvir of “goading the entire world”.

“It is forbidden to go up to the place of the Holy of Holies,” senior United Torah Judaism lawmaker Moshe Gafni said in parliament, referring to a part of Jewish temples that stood at the site in ancient times and was off-limits to most people.

Gafni said he had advised Ben-Gvir of this.

“Besides the aspect of religious law, there is nothing to be gained from just goading the entire world,” he said.

Among them were the three states which recently launched diplomatic ties with Israel: Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. Washington, meanwhile, warned it could “provoke violence” and recalled a 2000 visit by Israel’s then opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2023

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