Israel far-right minister enters Al-Aqsa in ‘provocation’

Israel far-right minister enters Al-Aqsa in ‘provocation’

Palestinians and several Arab countries condemn Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit, which they fear is aimed at changing the holy site’s status quo.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan have joined Palestinians in condemning a far-right Israeli minister’s brief visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, with the Palestinian leadership calling the intrusion “an unprecedented provocation”.

Tuesday’s visit by Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir risks stoking tensions with Palestinians, with the Hamas group that governs the besieged Gaza Strip warning that such a move would cross a “red line”.

Jordan, Egypt and the UAE, which have peace treaties with Israel, have condemned what they called Ben-Gvir’s “storming” of Al-Aqsa. Amman summoned the Israeli ambassador and said the visit had violated international law and “the historic and legal status quo in Jerusalem”.

Saudi Arabia, with which Netanyahu wants to forge a peace deal, also criticised Ben-Gvir’s action. Turkey, which has recently ended a long-running diplomatic rift with Israel, condemned the visit as “provocative” as well.

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What is the status of Al-Aqsa?

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound (also known as al-Haram al-Sharif by Muslims and the Temple Mount by Jews) is a wide, walled plaza in the heart of the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem. It incorporates the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

It is considered holy by both Muslims and Jews and is a Palestinian national symbol.

One of the walls of the compound, the Western Wall – also referred to as the Wailing Wall or the Buraq Wall – is a holy site for Jewish prayer. Jews pray undisturbed on the side of the wall that is outside the compound.

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967. The occupation is illegal under international law.

The compound has been managed continuously by Muslims, under a waqf (religious endowment), for hundreds of years.

The Jordanian-funded waqf has continued to administer the site since 1967, while Israel has security control. Under a longstanding agreement, the status quo of the site only permits Muslim prayer, and visits from non-Muslims are only permitted at specific times.

 Who is Itamar Ben-Gvir?

A far-right provocateur turned politician. Here is what you need to know about Itamar Ben-Gvir, a key winner in the Israeli elections.