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Al-Aqsa 'belongs only to Israel', says Ben Gvir during 'incendiary' visit

The far-right minister storms Al-Aqsa as three countries announce recognition of Palestinian state
Itamar Ben Gvir is seen walking around Al-Aqsa flanked by other far-right Israelis (Temple Mount Authority)

Israel's national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem on the day a number of European countries recognised a Palestinian state, amid the ongoing war on Gaza

Images showed Itamar Ben Gvir entering the complex flanked by heavily armed Israeli forces.

In a video taken from the courtyards of the mosque, the far-right minister said the Jerusalem site "belongs only to the state of Israel".

His visit came as Spain, Ireland and Norway announced their recognition of the state of Palestine, which in turn prompted Israel to recall its ambassadors.

Palestinians have long sought East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, as the capital of any future state.

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"I made it clear: the countries that recognised a Palestinian state this morning want to give a reward to the kidnappers of the female soldiers and their many supporters in Gaza," Ben Gvir said in the video published on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"We will not allow any surrender that would even include a declaration of a Palestinian state."

Al-Aqsa Mosque, which spans 14 hectares and includes the Dome of the Rock and the silver-domed al-Qibli Mosque, is an Islamic site where unsolicited visits, prayers and rituals by non-Muslims are forbidden, according to decades-long international agreements. 

The hill on which the mosque sits is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and is believed to be the site where two ancient Jewish temples once stood.

In the last two decades, there has been an increase in the number of Israeli ultranationalists visiting and praying in Al-Aqsa under police protection without permission from Palestinians. 

In 2009, over 5,000 settlers entered the mosque in such incursions. According to some estimates, the number rose to 30,000 in 2019. 

Daniel Seidemann, founder of the NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem, said Ben Gvir's move on Wednesday was "significant and potentially incendiary".

"Israel/Palestine is a fire raging out of control and the Netanyahu regime is dousing the flames with kerosene," he wrote on X.

"This couldn't happen without Netanyahu's consent."

It was the first time Ben Gvir, who regularly storms Al-Aqsa, entered the site since 7 October. 

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