JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli military fire killed a 14-year-old Palestinian in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said Thursday, as an extremist Israeli Cabinet minister visited a sensitive Jerusalem mosque that has been a frequent flashpoint for violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the disputed hilltop compound came as a year-and-a-half long bout of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians showed no signs of abating and was likely to draw condemnation from Palestinians who view such visits as provocative.
Early Thursday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said 14-year-old Fares Sharhabil Abu Samra was killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank town of Qalqilya. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
Ben-Gvir was joining what will likely to be hundreds of Jews visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to mark the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning and repentance when Jews reflect on the destruction of the First and Second Temples, key events in Jewish history.
“This is the most important place for the people of Israel which we must return to and show our rule,” Ben-Gvir said in a video released by his office, with the golden Dome of the Rock in the background.
Ben-Gvir, a former West Bank settler leader and far-right activist who years ago was convicted of incitement and supporting a Jewish terror group, now serves as Israel’s national security minister, overseeing the country’s police force.
Thursday was Ben-Gvir third known visit to the contested site since becoming a minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government.
His visit could enflame already surging tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, who have been locked in a monthslong round of fighting that has sparked the worst violence in nearly two decades in the West Bank.
The site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism, where the biblical Temples once stood. Today, it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.
Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel.