Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh cast a visit by a far-right Israeli official to a contested Jerusalem holy site on Tuesday as a bid to turn a major mosque there “into a Jewish temple.”
Addressing his cabinet, Shtayyeh also called on Palestinians to “confront the raids into al-Aqsa Mosque” after Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir toured the periphery of the mosque compound. Ben-Gvir did not approach the mosque.
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Israel denies having such designs. Ben-Gvir once advocated ending a ban on Jewish prayer at the site, but has been more non-committal on the issue since aligning with Benjamin Netanyahu. Other members of his Jewish Power party still advocate such a move.
The rise of Ben-Gvir in Netanyahu’s government, one of the most right-wing in Israel’s history, has deepened Palestinian anger about their long-failed efforts to secure a state.
Hours before the visit, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager in a clash in nearby Bethlehem, medical officials and witnesses said, the latest in a growing death toll in the West Bank. Israel’s army said troops fired on Palestinians who threw improvised explosives, rocks and firebombs at them.
A spokesman for Hamas, a Palestinian group that rejects coexistence with Israel and which controls Gaza, said of Ben-Gvir’s visit: “A continuation of this behavior will bring all parties closer to a big clash.”