JERUSALEM, Israel – The leaders of Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday called for Palestinians to mobilize against Israel, threatening to escalate tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria.
“We are declaring a general mobilization in all places where our people are located. We are calling on the masses to come out in the hundreds of thousands to protect our nation and our mosque,” the Gaza groups said in a statement after meeting with Hamas leader Yehiyeh Sinwar.
They urged Palestinians “to march and go out in the hundreds of thousands” and hold Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site that also sits on top of the Temple Mount. Al-Aqsa is typically a flashpoint for violence, especially during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when religious tensions are high and terror attacks increase.
The Gaza groups met on Wednesday to establish their "rules of engagement with Israel" amid near-daily raids against terror suspects in the West Bank and calls from a fringe group of Jewish activists to offer a ritual animal sacrifice on Temple Mount during Passover.
The Temple Mount is the location where two Jewish temples once stood. Jews are allowed to visit the site but to preserve the fragile status quo there, they are not allowed to pray or perform religious rituals.
The holy site is the emotional epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Last year, efforts by Israeli police to stop persistent rioting on the Temple Mount helped trigger an 11-day war with Gaza that began after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem.
So far, the Gaza Strip has been quiet despite a recent wave of terror attacks. But Israeli officials are concerned that Wednesday’s meeting between Palestinian terror factions could change that.
Israel has sought to cool tensions by allowing Muslim worshippers to enter the country without permits during Ramadan. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather on the Temple Mount on Friday.
Israel is also routinely carrying out arrest raids in the West Bank in response to terror attacks or attempted attacks. Wednesday night, Israel arrested several Palestinians from the towns of Silwad and Kobar who were allegedly planning to carry out an “imminent” attack against Israelis.
Palestinians have protested the raids, which have killed several Arabs.
Last week, Palestinian rioters vandalized Joseph’s tomb in protest of the arrests.