‘Unprecedented Provocation’: Israeli Security Minister Enters Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, Defying Hamas

(Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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Israel’s new Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, caused a stir Tuesday when he entered the Temple Mount compound in East Jerusalem.

The site, which holds great religious meaning to both Muslims and Jews, is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the second oldest in Islam. Ben-Gvir said the visit was a message for Hamas, who wouldn’t be able to “threaten” him.

“Our government will not surrender to the threats of Hamas,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement, according to Al Jazeera. “[The Temple Mount] is open to all and if Hamas thinks that if it threatens me it will deter me, they should understand that times have changed.”

Hamas had said Ben-Gvir’s move constituted a “red line,” Al Jazeera reported.

While non-Muslims are permitted to visit the Temple Mount at certain times, only Muslims are allowed to pray there under the current status quo. Rules governing the site have long been a flashpoint in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Palestinians have expressed concern that Israel’s new right-wing government may seek to change the status quo.

The Foreign Ministry of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) issued a statement, saying it “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.”

Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also condemned the visit. (RELATED: ‘Deliberate Killing’: News Network Sues Israeli Military Over Journalist’s Slaying)

Ben-Gvir was sworn in as Israel’s Minister of National Security on Dec. 29. His appointment was contentious due to his past activity as a part of religious Zionist and Jewish supremacist movements. In the new role, he has sweeping powers over Israel’s police force, including overseeing Israel’s border guards in the West Bank.