Israel far-right minister visits Al-Aqsa compound

Published May 21, 2023
Demonstrators waving Israeli flags gather outside the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem during the annual ‘flag march’ to mark ‘Jerusalem Day’ on May 18. — AFP
Demonstrators waving Israeli flags gather outside the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem during the annual ‘flag march’ to mark ‘Jerusalem Day’ on May 18. — AFP

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Sunday, a controversial move by the extreme-right politician amid heightened tensions in annexed east Jerusalem.

The move came three days after Ben-Gvir and tens of thousands of Jewish nationalists marched through the Old City and just over a week into a fragile Gaza ceasefire.

“Jerusalem is our soul,” Ben-Gvir wrote on Telegram, alongside a photo of himself at the site in the heart of the Old City.

“The threats of Hamas will not deter us, I went up to the Temple Mount!” he wrote, using the Jewish name for the site.

“I’m happy to ascend the Temple Mount, the most important place for the people of Israel,” he said during his visit to the compound.

“All the threats from Hamas will not help, we are in charge here in Jerusalem and all of the Land of Israel,” he added.

Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, denounced Ben-Gvir’s last visit to the site in January and again slammed his action on Sunday.

Israel will “bear responsibility for the barbaric incursions of its ministers and herds of settlers”, the group wrote on Telegram.

The move “confirms the depths of danger looming over Al-Aqsa, under this Zionist fascist government and the arrogance of its ministers from the extreme right”, said Hamas.

Israeli police confirmed Ben-Gvir’s visit in a statement, adding that it passed without incident.

Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and is administered by Jordan. Non-Muslims are permitted to visit the site, but not pray there.

The compound is also the most sacred site for Jews, who pray below it at the Western Wall.

Dangerous and unacceptable

Jordan decried Ben-Gvir’s actions as a “provocative step” and a “dangerous and unacceptable escalation”.

It “represents a flagrant and unacceptable violation of international law, and of the historical and legal status quo in Jerusalem and its holy sites”, said foreign ministry spokesman Sinan Majali.

Tours of the site by Jewish nationalists have long been criticised by Palestinians and Arab nations, while Ben-Gvir’s visits have taken on added weight since he took office in December.

The timing of Sunday’s visit also holds significance, coming days after nationalists marched through the Old City to celebrate east Jerusalem’s capture by Israeli forces in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Palestinians were forced to close their businesses and were removed from the march route to make way for the Israeli participants.

Thursday’s event was marred by incidents of violence against Palestinians and journalists, while the United States condemned “the hateful chants such as ‘Death to Arabs’” during the rally.

Later on Sunday, Israel’s top politicians are set to hold a rare cabinet meeting within the Old City.

It comes days into a May 13 truce reached between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza, ending five days of cross-border fighting.

Opinion

Rule by law

Rule by law

‘The rule of law’ is being weaponised, taking on whatever meaning that fits the political objectives of those invoking it.

Editorial

Isfahan strikes
Updated 20 Apr, 2024

Isfahan strikes

True de-escalation means Israel must start behaving like a normal state, not a rogue nation that threatens the entire region.
President’s speech
20 Apr, 2024

President’s speech

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari seems to have managed to hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting of...
Karachi terror
20 Apr, 2024

Karachi terror

IS urban terrorism returning to Karachi? Yesterday’s deplorable suicide bombing attack on a van carrying five...
X post facto
Updated 19 Apr, 2024

X post facto

Our decision-makers should realise the harm they are causing.
Insufficient inquiry
19 Apr, 2024

Insufficient inquiry

UNLESS the state is honest about the mistakes its functionaries have made, we will be doomed to repeat our follies....
Melting glaciers
19 Apr, 2024

Melting glaciers

AFTER several rain-related deaths in KP in recent days, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority has sprung into...