(Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir entered Al-Aqsa Mosque in ‘a tour’ of occupied East Jerusalem on 31 March under heavy police protection amid a rise in tensions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev reportedly urged the police to block the entry of Ben Gvir, but ultimately cleared the tour after a situational assessment.
“My tour here sends one simple message, I do not give up and do not back down, and the state of Israel must not bow down to these terrorists who want to kill us all,” Ben Gvir said from the Mosque courtyard, in reference to the recent string of attacks against settlers that have left 11 people dead.
“Whoever controls the Temple Mount controls the land of Israel. The enemy understands this too,” the extremist lawmaker added.
In the wake of the violence, the Israeli occupation forces have raised the alert level to the highest it has been since the war launched on Gaza in May of last year.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also issued warning about what he called “a wave of murderous Arab terrorism.”
Hours ahead of Ben Gvir’s incursion into the Muslim holy site, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians and injured 15 others during a raid in the West Bank.
The victims were later identified as 17-year-old Sanad Abu Atiyeh and 23-year-old Yazid al-Saadi. The Palestinian Health Ministry also condemned the use of tear gas canisters near Jenin Governmental Hospital, which reportedly affected many patients and staff.
In response to these raids, Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has warned of an escalation in resistance against the occupation.
“Let this arrogant enemy know that the blood of our people is not cheap, and that Hamas, during the era of the martyrs, will continue the path of resistance, fighting the occupation and protecting our people, regardless of the sacrifices,” a statement released by the group read.