Israeli minister's Al Aqsa visit to be discussed by UN Security Council as tensions grow

UN body will meet in New York following request by the UAE and China

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at Al Aqsa Mosque compound. AFP
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The UN Security Council will meet on Thursday to discuss the visit to Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound by an Israeli minister that has caused an increase in tensions, including the death of a young boy and home demolitions in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited Al Aqsa on Tuesday, raising tensions with Palestinians days after an ultra-right-wing government was sworn in.

The 15-member Security Council will meet at the UN headquarters in New York at 3pm (midnight UAE) following a request by the UAE and China.

"It is the international community that decides the fate of defending and protecting the historic status quo in Jerusalem in the defence of the Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem," said Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour.

"We will not be satisfied with beautiful statements that will be uttered tomorrow in the Security Council. We want them to be implemented in a concrete way."

The meeting also follows reports that Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian boy and wounded two young men during a raid into the Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus, at dawn.

Palestinian health officials said Amer Abu Zeitoun, 16, was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers.

Abu Zeitoun was shot during violence between Palestinian people and Israeli soldiers during an army arrest raid, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

At least five homes owned by Palestinian people were demolished by Israeli forces in the Masafer Yatta neighbourhood in the South Hebron Hills a day earlier.

About 1,000 Palestinians from Masafer Yatta are expected to receive eviction notices from Israeli authorities in the coming days, before planned home demolitions in the area.

In May, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the state has the power to designate Masafer Yatta a “firing zone” and that the members of these communities are not permanent residents.

There have been fears Tuesday's visit to Al Aqsa by Mr Ben-Gvir could spark a war.

Al Aqsa Mosque compound is in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and is the third-holiest site in Islam.

Under a longstanding status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times, but are not allowed to pray there.

In recent years, a growing number of Jewish people, most of them Israeli nationalists, have covertly prayed at the compound, a development decried by Palestinians.

Western governments warned such moves threaten the fragile arrangement at Jerusalem's holy sites.

Mr Ben-Gvir's visit sparked a wave of international condemnation, including from the US, a longstanding ally of Israel.

"This is an action of extremism that purports to create a new cycle of violence," Jordan's ambassador to the UN Mahmoud Daifallah Hmoud said.

"The Security Council has to take its responsibility seriously and stop such attempts."

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres, emphasised on Wednesday that the Secretary General "calls on all to refrain from steps that could escalate tensions in and around Jerusalem".

The Security Council has adopted several resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the years and supports the two-state solution to peace in the Middle East.

Updated: January 05, 2023, 11:04 AM