Israel-Palestine: Itamar Ben-Gvir tours al-Aqsa Mosque under police protection
The visit by Itamar Ben-Gvir, a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, came days before the month of Ramadan and against a backdrop of increased violence in Israel and Palestine.
Authorities approved Ben-Gvir’s visit on Wednesday despite warnings that increased police-protected tours by settlers and far-right Israelis in al-Aqsa will lead to more confrontations.
“I don’t surrender and I don’t fold,” Ben-Gvir said during the tour, which lasted for about 15 minutes.
“The state of Israel must not give in to those terrorists who want to murder us all.”
Ben-Gvir’s visit, part of which he filmed, comes days after 11 Israelis were killed in three separate attacks carried out by Palestinians inside Israeli cities.
In the wake of the violence, Israeli police and armed forces have raised the alert level to the highest it has been since May last year.
During his tour, Ben-Gvir, who is associated with the hardline Kahanist ideology, called Jerusalem's Islamic Waqf, a Palestinian civilian administration that manages the mosque, “terrorists”.
“Whoever controls the Temple Mount controls the Land of Israel. The enemy understands this too,” he said.
The Waqf said a number of settlers stormed al-Aqsa Mosque in groups on Thursday morning, participating in “provocative tours” in its courtyards.
Despite the efforts to reduce tensions, Israeli settler marches are planned to take place in al-Aqsa during Ramadan, which will overlap with Jewish holidays.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1980, a move never recognised by the international community.
Jordan has been the custodian of Jerusalem's Muslim holy sites since the 1920s. The mosque, which sits on a tree-lined plateau in the Old City, is also revered by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.
Israeli far-right activists have repeatedly pushed for an increased Jewish presence at the site and some have advocated for the destruction of al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for a Third Temple.