The Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, a prominent figure from the Israeli far-right, has stirred controversy by calling for unrestricted access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied Jerusalem for Israeli settlers around the clock. This provocative demand comes as more than 500 Jewish settlers entered the flashpoint site on the fourth day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, according to the Palestinian Islamic Waqf Department.
Sukkot, a weeklong holiday that began on September 29 and will continue until October 6, marks the end of a series of Jewish holidays that commenced with Rosh Hashanah (New Year) on September 15.
Ben-Gvir’s call was revealed through excerpts from a letter addressed to right-wing lawmakers in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, as reported by Haaretz newspaper. In the letter, the far-right minister urged the Israeli security cabinet to convene immediately to discuss the possibility of opening the Al-Aqsa Mosque to Jews 24/7.
The minister expressed hope that his proposal would garner support from ministers within the right-wing Religious Zionism Party, notably Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
Israeli occupation forces have been permitting Jewish settler incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex since 2003, despite consistent objections from Palestinians. Currently, Israeli settlers are granted access to the site in two shifts, during the morning and evening, except for Fridays and Saturdays.
Al-Aqsa Mosque holds great significance in Islam and is considered the third-holiest site for Muslims worldwide. The occupied Jerusalem, the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and subsequently annexed in 1980, a move that has never been recognized by the international community. This annexation has been a source of ongoing tension in the region and a major point of contention in the Palestinian issue.
Ben-Gvir’s call for unrestricted access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex has sparked renewed concerns and debates over the status of the holy site and its impact on the already fragile situation in Jerusalem.