Jerusalem, May 21 (IANS): Israeli far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday morning, drawing condemnations from the Palestinians and Jordan.
Escorted by heavy police and the internal Shin Bet security agency, Ben-Gvir visited the compound in the early morning hours, according to a video statement released by his office, Xinhua news agency reported.
He said he was glad to come up to the compound, and thanked the police officers at the site.
Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement that the visit is "a blatant attack" on the holy site.
The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates echoed Rudeineh by condemning the visit in a statement as "a provocative step and a dangerous and unacceptable escalation." The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been administered by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, a Jordanian body, since 1948.
The visit comes days after the 'Flag March', an annual march by tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists, to mark the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem.
It is the second time Ben-Gvir, the ultranationalist leader of the Jewish Power party, visited the site since he became a member of the Israeli coalition government. The government, the most far-right in Israel's history, was inaugurated last December.
The compound is a sensitive site in East Jerusalem holy to both Muslims and Jews and a long-time focal point of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel gained control of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war and occupied it despite international criticism. Under a long-held status quo, the site is administrated by the Jordanian Waqf, allowing only Muslim worship.