The far-right Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited Jerusalem’s sacred al-Aqsa mosque compound for the first time since becoming a minister, angering Palestinians who see the visit as a provocation.
Israel’s new government “will not give in to threats from Hamas,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement made after getting inside the site, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“We [will] maintain freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians,” Ben-Gvir claimed, but added that “Jews will climb the mountain.”
“Those who make threats will be dealt with an iron fist,” Ben-Gvir further said.
On Sunday, Ben-Gvir said he would visit the holy site in the near future. New Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly spoke with Ben-Gvir on Monday to discuss his intention to visit the site. The Likud confirmed that, following consultations with security establishment officials, Netanyahu did not object to Ben-Gvir’s break-in.
In response to Ben-Gvir’s Sunday remarks, Hamas warned that such a step will explode the situation.
“Any escalation in Al-Aqsa Mosque will explode the situation and the occupation government will be responsible for this,” Hamas spokesman Abdel-Latif al-Qanoua said in a statement published Monday, as per Quds News Network.
Israel’s opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid had warned that such a visit by Ben-Gvir would spark violence.
Following his visit, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns the storming of Al-Aqsa mosque by the extremist minister Ben-Gvir and views it as an unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict.”
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem also said the “crime of the fascist Zionist Ben-Gvir in breaking into Al-Aqsa Mosque is a continuation of the Zionist occupation’s aggression against our sanctity and our Arab identity.”