Condemnations came from Israel's Arab neighbors and the United States in the wake of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount on Thursday in honor of Tisha B'Av. Meanwhile, Jerusalem police Thursday detained at least 16 Jewish visitors to Temple Mount for alleged violations of regulations under the existing status quo agreed to with the Muslim endowment. Nearly 2,000 Jewish visitors were allowed on the holy site as of early afternoon on Tisha B'Av, the Jewish commemoration of the destruction of the Holy Temple over 2,000 years ago. Two Palestinians were also detained.
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Earlier in the morning, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir entered the compound revered by both Jews and Muslims. "This is the most important place for the people of Israel where we need to return to show our governance," he said.
A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Jerusalem said in response to Ben-Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount that "the US stands firm in preserving the historical status quo in relation to the holy sites in Jerusalem. Any unilateral action or rhetoric that endangers the status quo is unacceptable."
The visit which passed quietly and ended without riots, was condemned by the Palestinian Authority. "This assault as an official Israeli cover for the ongoing invasions and plans to Judaize the al-Aqsa Mosque, and to impose forced changes on its existing historical and legal reality, as an inseparable part of Jerusalem's Jewry," the PA said in a statement.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry also issued a condemnation. "We warn against further one-sided Israeli action because it is dangerous to give extremists the ability to carry out provocations. Further actions of that kind, alongside continued violations of the status quo could cause an escalation of further violence," the Jordanian statement said.
Saudi Arabia said Ben-Gvir and "settlers broke into Al Aqsa Mosque area" in conduct that it said was a blatant violation of international norms and creates a provocation that hurts Muslims around the world. "The full responsibility lies with Israel," the Foreign Ministry in Riyhad said.
Egypt "condemns the attack by Israeli government officials and hundreds of extremists on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Israel's prevention of Muslim worshipers from exercising their right to come to the mosque and worship there. We call on the Israeli side to immediately stop these provocations and escalations that are causing an increase in existing tensions in the occupied territories," according to a statement from its Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Ben-Gvir informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in advance of his intention to visit the site."On this day, in this place, it is always important to remember - we are all brothers. Right, left, religious, secular," Ben-Gvir also said. "We are all the same people. And when a terrorist looks through the window, he does not differentiate between us and separate us. Unity is important, love of Israel is important."
In addition to Ben-Gvir, Minister of the Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Yitzhak Wasserlauf from Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit party also visited the site. During Ben-Gvir's visit the police detained three Jewish visitors after they bowed down on the spot; Jewish prayer is forbidden at the site which is the holiest site in the world for Jews and the third holiest for Muslims behind Mecca and Medina.
In January after the establishment of the government and in May for Jerusalem Day, Ben-Gvir's visits to the Temple Mount provoked anger in the Arab world, and also condemnation from the United States.
In May, the State Department said that Ben-Gvir's ascent to the site was " an alarmingly provocative visit." The State Department's announcement states that "holy places should not be used for political purposes. The United States supports the status quo and calls on all parties to respect the sanctity of the place." About four months before, after Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount upon the formation of the government, the U.S. said that his visit was an "unacceptable action."
The Arab world also condemned Ben-Gvir's previous visits to the Temple Mount. In May, Saudi Arabia refrained from naming the minister, and a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh, said that "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the entry of a senior Israeli official into the al-Aqsa compound."
The Saudi statement on Thursday said that Ben-Gvir's conduct was "systematic," and was a blatant violation of all international conventions and agreements. According to the Saudi Foreign Ministry, the move by the National Security Minister was seen as "hurting Muslim feelings around the world." Riyadh sent a message to Israel stating that "the Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers the Israeli security forces to bear full responsibility for the consequences of the continuation of these violations."
Jordan reacted to Ben-Gvir's Thursday visit to the Temple Mount about an hour after it was reported in Israeli media. "The ascent of the Israeli Minister of National Security to the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa compound is a violation of the sanctity of the place, it is a provocative step that must be condemned," Jordan said in a statement, adding that "this is a dangerous escalation that is a blatant violation of international law and the status quo in Jerusalem and the holy places."
Another country with which Israel has a peace agreement and condemned Ben-Gvir's step is Egypt, and the Foreign Ministry in Cairo stated that the Minister of National Security "was accompanied by extremist groups."
Egypt also stated that "these provocative actions are contrary to the responsibility and understanding expected of senior officials in the Israeli government. The successive attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, aimed at formulating a policy of temporal and spatial division, will not change the existing legal and historical status quo according to which Al-Aqsa is an Islamic endowment."
First published: 08:23, 07.27.23