Saudi Arabia condemns visit by Israel extreme-right wing minister to Al-Aqsa mosque compound

  • Itamar Ben-Gvir entered the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia condemned “provocative actions” by an ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet minister who entered Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem Tuesday morning.

“The foreign ministry expresses the condemnation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of the provocative action by an Israeli official who stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound,” the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Tuesday’s visit by Itamar Ben-Gvir, who briefly toured the site under heavy security, has triggered a wave of condemnations by Arab states and organizations who saw the act a flagrant violation of the sanctity of the site.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) strongly condemned the visit describing it “as part of Israel’s attempts to change the existing historical and legal status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The OIC said it considered the act “a provocation to the feelings of all Muslims and a flagrant violation relevant international resolutions.”

Ben-Gvir has long called for greater Jewish access to the holy site, which is viewed by Palestinians as provocative and as a potential precursor to Israel taking complete control over the compound. Ben-Gvir did not approach the mosque.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh cast the visit as a bid to turn the mosque complex “into a Jewish temple.”

Addressing his cabinet, Shtayyeh also called on Palestinians to “confront the raids into Al Aqsa mosque.”

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said 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 said on Tuesday it also condemned in the “severest” terms a visit by Ben-Gvir to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

“Jordan condemns in the severest of terms the storming of the Aqsa mosque and violating it’s sanctity,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. Adding that the visit violated international law and “the historic and legal status quo in Jerusalem.”

The UAE condemned what it said was an Israeli minister’s “storming” of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, state news agency WAM reported. Kuwait and Egypt have also issued similar statements.

A White House National Security Council spokesperson said any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites is unacceptable.
“The United States stands firmly for preservation of the status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem. Any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable,” the spokesperson said, adding the United States calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to preserve his commitment to the status quo of holy sites.

Ben-Gvir’s stated intention of visiting the site earlier this week drew threats from the Islamic militant group Hamas.

A spokesman for Hamas said of Ben-Gvir’s visit: “A continuation of this behaviour will bring all parties closer to a big clash.”

The hilltop site in Jerusalem’s Old City is considered the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, and is the emotional epicenter of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Most rabbis forbid Jews from praying on the site, but there has been a growing movement in recent years of Jews who support worship there.

Ben-Gvir is head of the ultranationalist religious Jewish Power faction and has a history of inflammatory remarks and actions against Palestinians.

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