Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, Islam’s Third Holiest Site, at Center of Tensions as Itamar Ben-Gvir Calls for Greater Jewish Access

On Tuesday, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, entered the compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, causing outrage among Palestinians and raising concerns about potential violence. Ben-Gvir’s visit, which was accompanied by heavy security, has been labelled an “unprecedented provocation” by the Palestinian foreign ministry.

Ben-Gvir has long called for greater Jewish access to the holy site, which is viewed as a provocative act and a potential precursor to Israel taking control of the compound. The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is considered the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. Under the current status quo, only Muslim worship is allowed at the site. However, the Israeli far right has been pushing to change this and allow Jewish prayer at the site, despite opposition from many ultra-Orthodox Jews and prohibition from leading rabbis.

The Palestinian foreign ministry issued a statement condemning Ben-Gvir’s visit, saying: “The ministry strongly condemns the storming of Al-Aqsa mosque by the extremist minister Ben-Gvir and views it as unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict.” Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the besieged Gaza Strip, had previously warned that such a move would cross a “red line” and called it a “continuation of the Zionist occupation’s aggression against our sanctities and its war on its Arab identity.”

Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, had warned on Monday that Ben-Gvir’s planned entrance to the compound would lead to violence and called it a “deliberate provocation that will put lives in danger.” In the past, visits to the compound by right-wing Israeli politicians and activists have sparked violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. For example, former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the site in 2000 sparked the second Palestinian Intifada or uprising.

Ben-Gvir’s visit to the compound appears to have been calculated to avoid a direct confrontation with Palestinians, having taken place early in the morning and a day after Ben-Gvir had appeared to backtrack from his plans, thereby avoiding a gathering of Palestinians at the site. After his visit, Ben-Gvir wrote on Twitter: “The site is open to all and if Hamas thinks that if it threatens me it will deter me, they should understand that times have changed.”

History Of Al-Aqsa Mosque Jerusalem, Its Importance And Architecture

Ofir Gendelman, who has long served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Arabic-language spokesman, released a video saying that the “situation is completely calm” at the holy site following Ben-Gvir’s departure. However, tensions are likely to remain high, given the potential for further provocative actions by right-wing Israeli politicians and activists.

Ben-Gvir was sworn in last week as part of a new far-right government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli media had reported that Netanyahu had been negotiating with Ben-Gvir after it emerged that he was planning to enter the site, in an effort to get him to call off his plans. However, it seems that these efforts were unsuccessful, and Ben-Gvir ultimately went ahead with his visit to the compound.

The issue of access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has long been a source of tension and conflict in the region. Palestinians fear that the Israeli far right’s push for Jewish prayer at the site could lead to a change in the status quo, including the potential construction of a Jewish temple in place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Such a development would be deeply controversial and could have significant repercussions throughout the region.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *