The Temple Mount is closed to Jewish visitors from Wednesday until the end of Ramadan, which is set to end near the end of next week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday afternoon.
The decision was made despite the situation on the Temple Mount remaining relatively calm in recent days and despite the opposition of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
The measure is a “grave mistake that will not bring quiet” to the region, Ben-Gvir said in a direct attack on Netanyahu. “It can only escalate the situation.
“The lack of Jewish presence on Temple Mount will automatically cause a decrease in police presence on the Mount, which will create fertile ground for calls of incitement to murder Jews,” the national security minister charged. “When terror strikes, one must respond strongly rather than succumb to its whims.”
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the decision was reached based on the unanimous recommendation of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Ronen Bar and Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai.
The decision to close the site to Jewish visitors also comes a few days before “Quds Day,” which is marked by Iran and its proxies in the region as a day of opposition to Israel. Leaders of the terrorist movements allied with Iran are set to deliver speeches on Friday, including Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, and Israeli officials are preparing for possible attacks – both cyber and physical – ahead of the day.
Shortly before the decision was announced, Hamas called on Palestinians to head to al-Aqsa mosque and stay there overnight and warned Israel "against committing any foolish act against al-Aqsa."
Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount complex for the end of Passover, Ramadan
Earlier on Tuesday, 748 Jews visited the site, without any unusual incidents or violence, as did the visits by Jewish visitors in the two days prior, despite threats of violence by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.In total, 3,013 Jews visited the Temple Mount during the intermediate days of Passover this year, a 32% increase compared to the same period last year.
Since 2013, the Temple Mount has been closed to Jewish visitors for at least six of the last 10 days of Ramadan every year (including Friday and Saturday, when it is closed to Jews year round).
The Temple Mount Administration expressed hopes that the site would remain open to Jewish visitors throughout the last 10 days of Ramadan this year in a return to the situation before 2013.
Last week, Palestinians and police clashed in al-Aqsa after dozens of Palestinians barricaded themselves in the mosque ahead of the eve of Passover.
Police entered al-Aqsa, firing stun grenades and working to remove the people barricaded inside. Palestinians in the mosque fired fireworks and threw stones at the Israeli forces. Dozens of Palestinians were reportedly injured or arrested in the clashes.
A few hours after the clashes last week, 10 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel, followed by further rocket fire in the next two days from Gaza and Lebanon.