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Itamar Ben-Gvir at Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif@itamarbengvir

Palestinians have condemned a visit to a contested holy site in Jerusalem by a far-right Israeli minister as an “unprecedented provocation”.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has called for a harder line towards the Palestinians, walked around the site surrounded by police.

Competing claims to the compound bitterly divide Israel and the Palestinians.

Tensions have risen with the advent of Israel’s new nationalistic government.

Mr Ben-Gvir’s visit was his first public act since the government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was sworn in five days ago.

The hilltop site is the most sacred place in Judaism and third holiest in Islam. It is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, site of two Biblical temples, and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, the site of Muhammad’s ascent to Heaven. The entire compound is considered to be al-Aqsa Mosque by Muslims.

Jews and other non-Muslims are allowed to go the compound but not pray, though Palestinians see visits by Jews as attempts to change the delicate status quo.

Mr Ben-Gvir, leader of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, has long said that he wants to bring about a change to the rules to allow Jewish worship at the site.

“The Temple Mount is open to everyone,” he tweeted, accompanied by a photograph of him surrounded by a security cordon with the golden Dome of the Rock in the background.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Palestinians had previously warned against allowing Mr Ben-Gvir to visit.

After it went ahead, the Palestinian foreign ministry denounced what it described as “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”.

A spokesman for the Palestinian militant Islamist group, Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, called it a “crime” and vowed the site “will remain Palestinian, Arab, Islamic”, AFP news agency reported.

Tensions with Israel which escalated into violence at the site in May 2021 saw Hamas fire rockets towards Jerusalem, triggering an 11-day conflict with Israel.

Source: BBC

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