The United Nations and the United States led a chorus of international criticism of a visit by Israel’s extreme-right new national security minister to Jerusalem’s super-sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Tuesday.
The move by firebrand Itamar Ben-Gvir angered the Palestinians and US allies in the Arab world, while Western governments warned such moves threaten the fragile status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.
Ben-Gvir’s visit comes days after he took office as national security minister, with powers over the police, giving his decision to enter the highly sensitive site considerable weight.
Al-Aqsa mosque is the third-holiest place in Islam and the most sacred site to Jews, who refer to the compound as the Temple Mount.
The UAE and Morocco, which established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020, both spoke out against Ben-Gvir’s action.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that a change to the status quo of Jerualem’s holy sites would be “unacceptable”.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was “deeply concerned” by Ben-Gvir’s visit, which could “provoke violence.”
A United Nations spokesman said Secretary General Antonio Guterres called “on all to refrain from steps that could escalate tensions in and around the holy sites”.
Germany’s ambassador to Israel said the status quo “has long helped maintain the fragile peace and security around the holy sites” and urged all sides to avoid actions that could raise tension.
Jordan’s foreign ministry spokesman Sinan Majali said Amman summoned the Israeli ambassador, to “convey a protest message about the recklessness of the Israeli national security minister in storming the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque”.
Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest sites in Islam, condemned the “provocative practices” of Ben-Gvir.
Israel’s arch-foe Iran called the visit a “violation of international regulations and an insult to the values and sanctities of the Muslims.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry called Ben-Gvir’s visit a “serious threat”.
Egypt – which serves as a mediator in Gaza – warned “of the negative consequences of such actions”. (AFP)
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