Israeli far-right minister visits contested Jerusalem holy site

JERUSALEM: Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Tuesday visited the compound housing the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a move condemned by Palestinians as provocative and, despite warnings, that could lead to violence.

The Ynet news website published photos of Ben-Gvir touring the site under heavy security. The complex is the third holiest site in Islam after Makkah and Medina and the holiest in Judaism, a remnant of two ancient temples of the faith.

Israel’s opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid warned that such a visit by Ben-Gvir would trigger violence.

Only Muslims are allowed to worship at the site, and there was no indication that Ben-Gvir prayed during his visit.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns the assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque by extremist minister Ben-Gvir and considers it an unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict.”

Ben-Gvir was sworn in last week as part of a new government led by Benjamin Netanyahu that includes far-right and religious parties.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during a clash in the occupied West Bank, witnesses and Palestinian health officials said. There was no immediate comment on the incident from the Israeli military.

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