Palestine calls for emergency UN meeting after Israel’s Ben-Gvir visits Al-Aqsa

Adla Massoud

The National  /  January 3, 2023

Riyad Mansour urges Security Council to condemn what he calls the Israeli minister’s ‘illegal’ and ‘dangerous’ actions.

Palestine and Jordan on Tuesday requested an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council to discuss Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

In a letter shared with The National, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour urged the world body to “unequivocally condemn these illegal and dangerous actions and demand that Israel, the occupying power, cease its violations and assaults on this holy site and fully comply with its obligations under international law”.

“The Security Council cannot remain a bystander in the face of this perilous situation and must make its voice heard and assert its authority,” Mr Mansour wrote in the letter delivered to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Security Council members.

Only urgent, serious action can avert the potential of a “violent explosion and religious war”, he added.

The issue is likely to come up when the Security Council convenes on Thursday to discuss Middle East affairs.

The UN’s Arab Group, led by Palestine for the month of January, is expected to convene on Thursday in New York to discuss the next steps in response to Mr Ben-Gvir’s visit.

Al Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest place in Islam and has been a frequent flashpoint in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Under a long-standing status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there.

Mr Mansour told The National that he hopes Security Council members will act “in the way they see fit”.

Mr Guterres has called on all to refrain from actions “that could escalate tensions in and around the holy sites”, said his deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq.

He also encouraged “the parties to continue on the path towards resuming talks towards a two-state solution and to avoid any rhetoric that would make that task more difficult”.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday said that Washington officials had spoken to their Israeli counterparts in the hours following Mr Ben-Gvir’s visit.

“This visit has the potential to exacerbate tensions and to provoke violence,” Mr Price told reporters on Tuesday, reiterating that Washington “stands firmly for preservation of the historic status quo” of Jerusalem’s holy sites — a sentiment echoed by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who stated that a change to the status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites would be “unacceptable”.

But Mr Price dodged questions about what specific actions, if any, Washington would take in response to the visit.

The UAE was among several Gulf countries to condemn the visit.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation called on Israel to “assume responsibility for reducing escalation and instability in the region”.

The ministry “reiterated its firm position on the need to provide full protection for Al-Aqsa Mosque and halt serious and provocative violations taking place there”.

Adla Massoud – UN correspondent