JERUSALEM — Palestinian rebel group Hamas on Thursday threatened hostilities against Israel ahead of the upcoming Jewish holidays over violations against Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Hamas’s threats came just before Sunday’s Jewish New Year and a day after a group of Jewish religious extremists visited the disputed holy site, revered by both Jews and Muslims, and blew the shofar, a ram’s horn that is trumpeted before and during it. Jewish high holidays.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins at sundown on Sunday, and thousands of Israelis are expected to flock to Jerusalem in the coming weeks.
Israeli police minister Omer Barlev told Kan public radio on Wednesday that Israeli authorities will not restrict Jewish visits to the disputed Jerusalem holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Visits and prayers at the site by Jewish radicals have sparked previous rounds of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
For Jews, this place is the holiest place on earth, the site of two ancient temples. For Muslims, it is the home of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. The shrine is the emotional epicenter of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Officially, under loose rules known as the “status quo,” Jews are allowed to visit but not pray at the site, which is run by a Jordanian-run trust. But in recent years, the number of Jewish visitors has increased. the site has grown steadily, and some hold Jewish prayers on site under police protection.
Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar condemned the address to journalists in Gaza City, which he called “a blatant attack on the religious and Islamic status of the city and the mosque,” saying Israel bears full responsibility for “the possibility of dragging the entire region into an open religious war.”
He said the rebel group that rules the Gaza Strip “will protect the rights and sanctities of our people with all possible means.”
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars in the Gaza Strip since the Islamist group seized power in 2007.
The latest battle, in May 2021, began when Hamas fired rockets into Jerusalem as Israeli nationalists planned to march through Jerusalem’s historic Old City, home to the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites, in the 1967 Middle East War and later annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community. The Palestinians seek it as the capital of a future independent state.