Extremist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, National Security Minister in the newly formed Benjamin Netanyahu government in Israel, stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Tuesday, January 3, with a heavily-armed security force.
Ben-Gvir ignored warnings issued by his colleagues in the Israeli parliament and also by Palestinians who claimed that such a move would inevitably provoke a strong reaction and may end in the loss of lives.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) termed the storming of Al-Aqsa by Ben-Gvir yet another attempt to change the status quo at the mosque, and equated it with other oppressive measures taken by the Israeli occupation against Palestinians.
In a statement on Monday, official spokesperson of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh termed the visit “a declaration of war with serious consequences for everyone,” reported Wafa.
Israel’s far-right security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir enters the Al Aqsa compound despite warnings by Israeli and Palestinian officials that it could spark violence https://t.co/FAik3gAaFT
— TRT World (@trtworld) January 3, 2023
Although Ben-Gvir has led Israeli mobs into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound several times in the past, this is the first time that he has done so as a minister.
Palestinian resistance group Hamas also issued a formal warning via Egypt to the Israeli government against the visit, saying that it would have consequences. Its spokesperson Abdul Latif al-Qanouna said that “the criminal Ben-Gvir’s announcement of his intention to storm Al-Aqsa mosque reflects the arrogance of the fascist settler government and its premeditated intentions to escalate incursions and attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque to divide it,” Al-Mayadeen reported.
Ben-Gvir later told mediapersons that his “government will not surrender to threats from Hamas,” Times of Israel reported.
Provocative attempts to change status quo
As per the 1967 understanding with Jordan, Israel had agreed to maintain the status quo inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is considered one of the holiest places in Islam. Only Muslims are allowed to pray inside the mosque compound. People from other religious backgrounds are allowed to visit the compound for fixed time periods, but are not allowed to pray inside.
The extremist Israeli right has campaigned for the demolition of the mosque, as they claim the site to be the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism. On several occasions, extremist settler mobs have stormed the compound and attacked worshipers while being provided security by Israeli security forces.
In 2000, Ariel Sharon, then the leader of the right-wing Likud, and who later became the prime minister of Israel, had stormed the mosque compound. This act incited the second intifada, which lasted for years.
According to some estimates, nearly 50,000 Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in 2022, the highest since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967.
Some 50,000 Israeli colonizers raided Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyards in occupied Jerusalem in 2022, which is the highest number since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967. pic.twitter.com/epw2diAo7L
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) December 29, 2022
In recent times, some of those storming the mosque have also been seen praying inside the compound, under the protection of Israeli security forces. Some Israeli courts have allowed such worship in the past, although they have been overturned by higher courts later.
A number of Palestinians have been killed, injured, or jailed while resisting the storming of the mosque in the past.