The U.S. State Department says it is “deeply concerned”over an ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet minister’s visit to a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site in Jerusalem for the first time since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government took office last week.

Watch the briefing in the player above.

The visit drew fierce condemnation from across the Muslim world and a strong rebuke from the United States.

“This visit has the potential to exacerbate tensions and to provoke violence,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing Tuesday. “We’re deeply concerned by any unilateral actions that have the potential to do that … we’re deeply concerned by this visit.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir entered the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound on Tuesday, flanked by a large contingent of police officers.

The hilltop site in Jerusalem’s Old City is the emotional epicenter of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Earlier in the day, Palestinian officials said a 15-year-old boy was killed by Israeli army fire near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the incident.

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Concerning another matter Price addressed Venezuela and stated that the United States continues to recognize the democratically elected 2015 National Assembly as the last remaining democratic institution in that country.

And Price told reporters the United States considers the Nicolas Maduro government to be “illegitimate.”

“Our approach has not changed. He is illegitimate. We support the 2015 National Assembly as the only remaining vestige of democracy in Venezuela,” he said.

Regarding Venezuelan government assets, including the state oil company, Price said, “our overall Venezuela-related sanctions and related restrictions remain in place.”

“I understand that members of the National Assembly are discussing amongst themselves how they will oversee these overseas assets, ” he said.

The State Department spokesperson held his first press briefing after the holiday break covering several topics including the Biden administration’s outlook supporting the people of Ukraine as they resist Russia’s unprovoked invasion and Moscow’s recent barrage of attacks in Ukraine.

The Kremlin signaled no letup in its strategy of using bombardments to target the country’s energy infrastructure and wear down Ukrainian resistance to its invasion.

The barrage was the latest in a series of relentless year-end attacks, including one that killed three civilians on New Year’s Eve.


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