Middle East Monitor / October 3, 2023
Israel’s far-right Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, on Tuesday called for allowing illegal settlers into the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Occupied East Jerusalem around the clock, Anadolu Agency reports.
More than 500 settlers entered the flashpoint site on Tuesday on the fourth day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, according to the Islamic Waqf Department.
Sukkot is a week-long holiday, which started on 29 September and will continue until 6 October, ending a season of Jewish holidays that started by observing the Rosh Hashanah (New Year) on 15 September.
Haaretz newspaper cited excerpts from a letter sent by Ben-Gvir to right-wing lawmakers in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) demanding open access to illegal Israeli settlers to the site.
In the letter, Ben-Gvir called on the Israeli security cabinet to convene at once to consider “opening the Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa Mosque] to Jews 24/7”.
The far-right Minister voiced hope that his proposal will be supported by ministers from the right-wing Religious Zionism Party of hard-line Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich.
Israeli police began allowing the settler incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in 2003, despite repeated condemnations from Palestinians.
Settlers are allowed into the Al-Aqsa complex on two shifts, morning and evening, except for Fridays and Saturdays.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is the world’s third-holiest site for Muslims. Jews call the area the Temple Mount, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, a move never recognized by the international community.