Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat has critisised Hanegbi's visit to al-Haram al-Qudsi, one of Islam's holiest sites, as a continuation of Israeli aggression against the Palestinians.

Hanegbi walked around al-Haram al-Qudsi complex, unauthorised, for half an hour on Wednesday.

Erekat told Aljazeera that the minister's actions may lead to a fresh wave of violence.

''Such an action proves Israel's determination to escalate violence in the region''

Saeb Erekat - The Palestinian Legislative Council

''It may trigger more trouble in the holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as a non-Muslim has no right to enter the mosque without the permission of the Palestinian Ministry."

Erekat went on to tell Aljazeera that he held the Israeli government responsible for the visit and that Israel would have to bear responsibility for the potential ''dangerous consequences'' of Hanegbi's walkabout.

''Such an action proves Israel's determination to escalate violence in the region'' warned Erekat.

Al-Aqsa intifada

Israel claimed that Hanegbi and his police guards were checking the area in advance of the Muslim month of Ramadan, starting next week.

Ariel Sharon visited the holy site in September 200, before he was elected prime minister.

During Sharon's walkabout Israeli soldiers fired tear gas into Al-Aqsa Mosque and fired both live ammunition and rubber bullets to disperse the angry crowd who were inside and outside the mosque for Friday prayers.

Angry protests followed, leading to the birth of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) against the Israeli occupation.

Since then the authority that protects the site, known as the Waqf closed the compound to non-Muslims. Israel, has since reversed this, allowing Jews and tourists on to the site this summer.