Israel National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attends the Tisha B'av prayer, at The Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem, 27 July 2023. EFE/EPA/ABIR SULTAN

Israeli minister visits Jerusalem holy site sparking fury from Jordan, Palestinians

Jerusalem, Jul 27 (EFE).- Israel’s ultra-orthodox National Security Minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, visited the Esplanade of the Mosques in Jerusalem Thursday making it his third visit to the site since he became minister and triggering anger from Jordan, who manages the compound, and among Palestinians.

Ben Gvir visited the holy site on the occasion of Tisha B’Av, a Jewish day of national mourning.

“This morning I went up to the Temple Mount, our temple that was destroyed because of gratuitous hatred,” Ben Gvir said on Twitter.

The reference to the Temple’s destruction was a nod to the commemoration of the destruction of King Solomon and his successor Herod’s temples.

Tisha B’Av is observed by hundreds of thousands of Jews in synagogues across the country and, in Jerusalem, the epicenter of mourning is the Wailing Wall, which houses the Esplanade of the Mosques, the third most important site for Islam.

“Precisely in this holy place it is important for us to remember, when a terrorist looks through the window, he does not differentiate between us, he does not differentiate between right and left. For him we are all one people. Only with free love will we win,” the minister said after his visit to the site.

Ben Givr’s comments come at a time of heightened tensions in Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed through judicial reforms this week that have flared widespread protests and polarized Israeli society.

The Israeli minister’s visit to the Esplanade, where the Al Aqsa Mosque is located, has also prompted a damning response from Palestinian and Jordanian authorities.

The Islamist Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, denounced the visit as a “dangerous escalation” and “provocation” to the Palestinian people.

The Foreign Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which governs part of the West Bank, said the visit was “an official Israeli cover for the ongoing invasions and the plans to Judaize the Al-Aqsa

Mosque and to impose forced changes on the existing historical and legal reality, as an inseparable part of the Judaization of Jerusalem”.

Jordan, based on a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, is the guardian of peace for the sites sacred to Muslims and Christians in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967.

In response to Ben Gvir’s visit Thursday, Jordan’s Foreign Ministry warned: “of the dangerous consequences of allowing extremists to storm the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque / Al-Qudsi Al-Sharif and their provocative practices under the protection of the Israeli occupation police.”

The Esplanade of Mosques, known as the Temple Mount in Judaism, is the most sacred place for Islam after Mecca and Medina.

A status quo arrangement that has been in force since 1967 has reserved the religious site for the exclusive worship of Muslims, while Jews can only enter as visitors and are banned from praying.

Visits to the compound by Jews, many of whom are settlers like Gvir, set a record in 2022 with 48,238 visitors, according to the Waqf, the Jordanian foundation that manages the site.

In September 2000, then-Likud leader, Ariel Sharon, visited the controversial site and sparked a Palestinian uprising, known as the Second Intifada. EFE