Israel says it's still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel is reviewing possible curbs on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan fasting month, a government spokesperson said after media reports that the far-right minister for police might be overruled on the issue.

Al Aqsa, Islam's third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes. The site is also revered by Jews as vestige of their two ancient temples. Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel's 18% Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa.

That would compound the clampdown Israel has already placed on Palestinians since the Hamas' cross-border rampage from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, codenamed "Al Aqsa Flood", which triggered the ongoing Gaza war.

But Israel's top-rated Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would overrule Ben-Gvir.

"The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet," government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday.

He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.

A Ben-Gvir spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir posted on X that any attempt to override his authority would amount to a "capitulation to terror", and urged Netanyahu to deny the Channel 12 report.

(This story has been corrected to fix a typographical error in paragraph 2)

(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Mark Heinrich)