Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount on Sunday morning, two days after Jerusalem Day.
“I am happy to go up to the Temple Mount, the most important place for the people of Israel,” said Ben-Gvir during the visit. “It should be said that the police are doing a wonderful job here and once again proving who is the master in Jerusalem. All the threats of Hamas will not [change anything], we are the masters of Jerusalem and the entire Land of Israel.”
While about 1,146 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Thursday amid Jerusalem Day festivities, the minister did not visit the site with them.
Ben-Gvir also referenced ongoing tensions surrounding the upcoming votes on the national budget, saying “We need to remember our brothers in the Negev and the Galilee. In the upcoming budget, we must invest in the Negev and the Galilee. Jerusalem is our soul, the Negev and the Galilee is our soul, we must invest, we must act there, we must be the owners of both the Negev and the Galilee, and the foundation of this is the budget.”
The head of the Temple Mount Administration, Rabbi Shimshon Elbaum, welcomed the visit stating “I congratulate National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir for his ascent to the Temple Mount, which gives meaning to the slogan ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’ which recently turned 56 years old.”
“Ben-Gvir has been active since his youth in favor of Jewish pilgrimages to the Temple Mount, and since taking office has already caused significant improvements, removing hundreds of harassers and strengthening Israel’s rule on the Temple Mount.”
The Tag Meir organization condemned the visit, stating “Ben-Gvir and a friend of his want to forcefully change the status quo on the Temple Mount and set Jerusalem and the Middle East on fire. Until when will we continue to pay the price of the irresponsible appointment of Ben-Gvir to the position of national security minister of the State of Israel?”
Jordan, Palestinians condemn Ben-Gvir’s visit, warn of escalation
The spokesman for the Palestinian Authority presidency, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, called Ben-Gvir’s visit to the site a “flagrant attack on al-Aqsa” warning that it would have “serious repercussions,” according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
“The entry of the extremist Ben-Gvir at an early hour, like thieves, into the al-Aqsa Mosque square will not change reality and will not impose Israeli sovereignty over it,” added Abu Rudeineh.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry also condemned the visit “in the strongest terms,” calling it “a dangerous and unacceptable escalation” and “a flagrant and unacceptable violation of international law, and of the historical and legal status quo in Jerusalem and its sanctities.”
The ministry added that “the continuous violations and attacks on the Islamic and Christian sanctities in Jerusalem, in conjunction with the continuation of unilateral measures of settlement expansion and continuous incursions into the occupied Palestinian territories, warns of further escalation, and represents a dangerous trend that the international community must work to stop immediately.”
Hamas’s spokesman for the city of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hamada, stressed that the terrorist movement would “not leave al-Aqsa alone” and warned that Israel will “bear responsibility for the barbaric incursions of its ministers and herds of settlers.”
Hamada called on Palestinians and Arabs in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israeli territory to “intensify” their presence in al-Aqsa in order confront “all attempts to desecrate and Judaize it.”
Later on Thursday, Palestinian media outlets affiliated with Hamas, including the Shehab news agency, published a graphic showing Ben-Gvir with a red target over him and the words “Ben-Gvir is a target for our heroes and the wrath of our revolutionaries.”
Over 1,000 Jews visit the Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day
On Thursday, Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount raised the Israeli flag while singing “Hatikva,” as over a thousand Jews visited the complex to mark Jerusalem Day. Despite Jerusalem Day officially being on Friday, most of the festivities for the day were moved to Thursday to avoid a desecration of the Shabbat.
Video from the scene showed a man carrying a small flag while the group walking with him sang the Israeli national anthem. The man carrying the flag was detained. At least three additional individuals raised Israeli flags on the Mount on Thursday as well.
A number of ministers and MKs visited the Temple Mount on Thursday as well, including Negev and Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf (Otzma Yehudit) and Likud MKs Dan Illouz, Ariel Kallner and Amit Halevi.
Unrest in Old City since Jerusalem Day
Since the Jerusalem Day flag march on Thursday, a series of violent incidents have been reported in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Before and during the march, scuffles broke out between Jews, Arabs and police officers throughout the Old City.
Journalists covering the flag march were also attacked by right-wing participants of the march near the Damascus Gate on Thursday afternoon, with participants jeering at them and hitting them with various objects. The police stated that they arrested two of the participants who attacked the journalists. One of the suspects, a minor, was also carrying a knife in their bag.
A group of children who gathered in front of the journalists chanted “Arabs are sons of b&%*$es” and jeered at the journalists. After being smacked by one of the flags, one of the journalists could be seen grabbing the flag and pushing it to the side while saying “beware of me.”
On Friday afternoon, clashes erupted between Palestinians, Jews and Israel Police near the Lions’ Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, shortly before Friday prayers were set to begin at al-Aqsa Mosque. Two Israeli civilians and a police officer were injured amid the violence.
Footage reportedly from the scene showed Jews dancing and singing in the area before fights erupted and police intervened, throwing stun grenades into the crowd. Palestinians were seen throwing stones at the Jewish individuals during the clashes. The windshields of vehicles belonging to Palestinians were smashed as well, according to Palestinian reports. A number of Palestinians were reportedly injured amid the violence.