Extreme-right firebrand Itamar Ben-Gvir's move comes days after he took office as national security minister, a position which gives him powers over the police.

Israel's opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid had warned that such a visit by Ben-Gvir would spark violence.
Israel's opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid had warned that such a visit by Ben-Gvir would spark violence. (Tom Nisani / ynetnews.com)

Israel's new national security minister has entered the Al Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem amid warnings of unrest.

According to the local media, Itamar Ben Gvir arrived at the site on Tuesday in a surprise move accompanied by security personnel.

The Ynet news website carried pictures of Ben-Gvir touring the site under heavy security on Tuesday.

Ben Gvir was quoted as saying that the country's new government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would "not succumb to Hamas threats."

"Temple Mount is the most important site for the people of Israel, and we maintain our freedom of movement there," he added.

For Muslims, Al Aqsa represents the world's third-holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the Temple Mount, saying it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Earlier, Ben-Gvir reportedly cancelled the visit to Al Aqsa planned for this week after a phone call with Benjamin Netanyahu, who just retook the government reins as prime minister.

Ben-Gvir's visit was kept secret and in coordination with police, according to Israeli media.

'Unprecedented provocation'

Palestine's Foreign Ministry has condemned Ben-Gvir's Tuesday visit to the Al Aqsa compound, calling the visit an "unprecedented provocation."

Earlier Palestinian group Hamas, for its part, said it would hold Israel responsible for any consequences of Ben Gvir’s planned visit.

“Any escalation in Al Aqsa Mosque will explode the situation and the occupation government will be responsible for this,” Hamas spokesperson Abdel-Latif Al Qanoua said in a statement.

Ben Gvir, reportedly told Netanyahu that there must not be a capitulation to Hamas' threats over his visit.

READ MORE: Israelis storm Al Aqsa Mosque to celebrate Hanukkah

Wave of escalation

Ben Gvir holds far-right views on the Palestinians and has called for their displacement. He has repeatedly joined Israeli settlers in storming the Al Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem.

The far-right politician also caused a wave of escalation in the occupied city after setting up an office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Last November, Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned in a leaked audio that "the whole world is worried" about Ben Gvir’s extremist views.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al Aqsa is located, during the 1967 War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, in a move never recognised by the international community. 

READ MORE: 2022 in review: Palestinians under growing Israeli aggression and expansion

Source: TRTWorld and agencies