Israel's Ben-Gvir storms Jerusalem's Old City after temporary Al-Aqsa ban for non-Muslims
Israel's extremist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Wednesday stormed the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu temporarily halted visits to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by non-Muslims.
While in the Old City, the extreme-right minister denounced Netanyahu’s decision to halt visits to the compound until the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends on either 20 or 21 April, Arabi 21 reported.
East Jerusalem’s Old City is a predominantly Palestinian area occupied by Israel in 1967 and contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site.
"When terrorism strikes us we must strike back with great force, not surrender to its whims," Ben-Gvir said of the restrictions on entry to the compound.
The halt to Al-Aqsa visits follows increased Israeli aggression towards Palestinians since the beginning of Ramadan, including an especially violent storming of the compound last week that saw hundreds of Muslim worshippers injured or arrested.
In recent days, hundreds of Israeli extremists have stormed the compound and provoked Muslim worshippers. Some of the extremists wish to demolish the mosque and build a Jewish temple in its place.
The long-standing 'status quo' arrangement of Al-Aqsa, which Israel says it maintains, allows non-Muslims to visit but not pray at the site.
However, Israeli extremists often perform religious rituals in violation of the arrangement.
Days after Ben-Gvir took office as national security minister, he too forcibly enteredthe compound, enraging Palestinians who saw the move as a provocation.
Ben-Gvir has a long history of incitement and violent rhetoric against Palestinians.
He was convicted in 2008 on racism charges for supporting a terrorist organisation and for waving a sign that read "Arabs out" as well as having signs on his car that read "Either us or them" and "There is a solution – expel the Arab enemy".
He has also called for the killing of Palestinians who throw rocks at soldiers and stripping Palestinians of Israeli citizenship for perceived disloyalty to Israel. Last December, he hailed an Israeli soldier who shot dead an unarmed Palestinian as a "hero".
Around 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers so far in 2023.