Israeli minister and Jewish Power party chief Itamar Ben-Gvir (C) walking through the courtyard of Al-Aqsa mosque compound early on Jan 3. — Minhelet Har-Habait (Temple Mount Administration) via AFP

The Foreign Office (FO) on Wednesday “strongly condemned the insensitive and provocative visit” of Israel’s new far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound a day earlier.

The visit had angered Palestinians and drew a slew of condemnations, including from the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkiye and Jordan.

In a statement, the FO asserted, “Al Aqsa [mosque] is a holy site revered by Muslims around the world.”

It added that a “violation of its sanctity offends the religious sensitivities of Muslims and inflames an already tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories”.

The FO demanded that “Israel must cease its illegal actions and respect the sanctity of Muslim religious sites in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The statement reiterated Pakistan’s “strong support for the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people”.

It also renewed Pakistan’s call for a “viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State with pre-1967 borders” and with Al Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital, in accordance with the relevant United Nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation resolutions.

The Israeli minister had justified his 15-minute visit by tweeting that the “Temple Mount is open to all” while using the Jewish name for the site.

Video footage showed him strolling at the periphery of the compound, surrounded by a heavy security detail and flanked by a fellow Orthodox Jew.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had called on Palestinians to “confront the raids into Al Aqsa Mosque”, and accused Ben-Gvir of staging the visit as part of a bid to turn the shrine “into a Jewish temple”.

In a wave of condemnations, the US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, said Washington “has made it clear to the Israeli government it opposes any steps that could harm the status quo in the holy sites”.

Turkiye termed the visit a “provocative act” while the UAE strongly condemned the “storming” of the site — despite both countries’ recent efforts to improve ties with Israel.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan had used similar terms in their officials’ statements.

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