Leaders of several Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have called on Palestinians to converge on al-Aqsa Mosque compound (Temple Mount) on Friday to protect it against “provocations by Zionist criminals.”
The call came after an emergency meeting of faction leaders on Wednesday evening in the office of Hamas’s Gaza leader, Yahya Sinwar, in Gaza City.
The meeting was held amid claims by Palestinians that “extremist Jews” were planning to conduct ritual sacrifices on Temple Mount during the Passover holiday.
“The factions and the Joint Operations Room [of the terror groups] will remain on high and constant alert to follow up on developments and do what is necessary to protect our people and our holy sites,” a spokesperson for the groups said in a statement.
The faction leaders also called on the terror groups to be ready to “defend” al-Aqsa Mosque. They urged Arabs and Muslims, especially those who signed peace treaties with Israel, to “reconsider their positions and end their alliance with the enemy.”
The Palestinian Authority and Jordan also warned on Wednesday that “provocations” by Jews at al-Aqsa Mosque compound during Passover could spark a new cycle of violence.
A Jewish group called The Returning to the Mount announced earlier this week that it would be offering a cash reward to anyone who succeeds in sacrificing a lamb at the Temple Mount.
But Israeli government officials clarified on Wednesday that no such rituals would be permitted.
Two members of the Returning to the Mount movement were detained on Wednesday night after it was discovered that they intended to try and sacrifice a lamb on the Temple Mount on Friday.
The chairman of the Returning to the Mount movement, Rafael Morris, recently received a restraining order from police forbidding him from entering the old city and the Temple Mount. Morris has said that he will head to the site on Friday despite the restraining order.
"The police boast of granting freedom of worship to all religions, but the reality is shameful," said the Returning to the Mount movement on Wednesday. "All the efforts of the police will not work. We will arrive on the eve of Passover in order to offer a Passover sacrifice."
The PA said that it was coordinating with Jordan, which oversees the Islamic holy sites at the compound through the Wakf Department, to “provide protection for the al-Aqsa Mosque and foil Israeli plans to change the historical, legal, and demographic reality in Jerusalem.”
The PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the Israeli government of working with “extremist settlement organizations to ignite the situation and plunge the region into a vicious cycle of violence.”
“At a time when the Israeli war machine continues its criminal escalation against the Palestinians and commits more field executions, arrests and sabotage in Palestinian cities and towns, we are witnessing an escalation by extremist organizations, movements and associations, and their public calls for violating Christian and Islamic sanctities,” the ministry said in a statement. “These calls are launched and promoted under the watchful eye of the occupying state and its security services.”
The PA ministry held the Israeli government “fully and directly responsible for these racist incitement calls and their dangerous consequences on the entire region,” adding that “occupied Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of the State of Palestine.”
It also called on the US administration to pressure Israel “to stop the storming of the al-Aqsa Mosque,” a reference to the routine visits by Jews to the Temple Mount which the Palestinians regularly portray as violent incursions.
Despite the denials by Israeli officials, Jordan also condemned what its described as “the ongoing extremists’ calls to intensify the storming of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.”
In a statement, Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Haitham Abu al-Foul warned against allowing the extremists to carry out “provocative acts that violate the sanctity of the holy site, which is a place of worship for Muslims only.”
The spokesperson also called for respecting the legal and historical status quo of Jerusalem, and to stop all measures that impede the ability of worshipers to reach the mosque, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip warned that Israel would bear the consequences if Jews are allowed to conduct “provocative rituals” in the courtyards of the compound.
“Hamas believes that this represents a dangerous escalation that crosses all red lines, and a direct attack on the faith and feelings of the Palestinian people and the [Islamic] nation during the holy month of Ramadan,” the terror group said in a statement. It said that the Palestinians will not allow “the implementation of this criminal scheme and will stand with all force to thwart it.”
Sami Abu Zuhri, a member of the political leadership of Hamas, said that “the ongoing Zionist incursions into the al-Aqsa Mosque and the [Jewish] threat to conduct rituals there are a dangerous development that the Palestinian people cannot accept.”
He claimed that Jews were planning to slaughter lambs at the holy site as part of a plan to convert the mosque into a Jewish place.
The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also issued similar warnings and threats, holding the Israeli government responsible for aggravating tensions.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.