Israeli Cabinet member's visit to Jerusalem holy site fuels fears of unrest

An ultranationalist member of Israel's new Cabinet has visited a Jerusalem holy site for Muslims, fueling concern that it may inflame tensions in the region.

Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was flanked by a large contingent of security officers as he made his way to the site in the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The visit was the first by a Cabinet member of Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu's new far-right government, which took office last week. The site is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, meaning the Noble Sanctuary.

Ben-Gvir, who heads the far-right Jewish Power party, is among a group of far-right lawmakers appointed by the new administration to key Cabinet posts.

During his visit, the minister said "The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel."

There is a strict rule that only Muslims are allowed to pray at the holy site. In 2000, a visit by Israel's opposition party leader to the site sparked major protests by Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority and Arab nations have condemned the latest visit, calling it a "provocation." The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas warned that it could trigger a dangerous escalation in tensions.