Gaza terror factions call on Palestinians to 'defend al-Aqsa'

Although statement does not include explicit threat or ultimatum, collective agrees to prepare for a potential conflict with Israel after long-standing silence on recurrent Israeli crackdowns on West Bank terror cells
Elior Levy|
A collective of Gaza Strip terror groups on Wednesday called on their followers to defend the al-Aqsa Mosque as tensions are running high across Israel and the West Bank.
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  • "We are following developments and will make decisions to protect the Palestinian people and the holy places," the groups said in a statement following a meeting led by Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar.
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    צדעת ארגוני טרור בחאם יונס
    צדעת ארגוני טרור בחאם יונס
    Palestinian militants march down Khan Younis, the Gaza Strip
    (Photo: AFP)
    "We call on our people in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque this coming Friday, and call on the Palestinian resistance to stay vigilant and be prepared to defend the mosque."
    The factions met to draw up the "rules of engagement with Israel" in the wake of recent, near-daily raids in the West Bank following a series of terror attacks on Israeli soil and calls by Israeli right-wing activists to offer an animal sacrifice on the Temple Mount, where the al-Aqsa Mosque is located, during Passover.
    Although the statement did not include an explicit threat or an ultimatum, the collective agreed to prepare for a potential conflict with Israel.
    The meeting breaks a long-standing silence from the Palestinian enclave regarding Israel's recurrent incursions into Palestinian West Bank cities, namely the city of Jenin in the northern part of the territory.
    4 View gallery
    מתפללים נכנסים לשער שכם לכיוון מתחם הר הבית
    מתפללים נכנסים לשער שכם לכיוון מתחם הר הבית
    Muslim worshipers enter the Old City of Jerusalem on their way to the al Aqsa mosque for Ramadan prayers last Friday
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    Several senior Hamas officials have launched belligerent threats against Israel and messages to the Palestinians, but these were mainly intended to stoke tensions within the West Bank and East Jerusalem and did not mention Gaza entering the fray.
    Israeli officials believe Hamas will not instigate violence in Gaza.
    The Islamic Jihad faction, whose members are behind many of the violent clashes in the northern West Bank and especially in Jenin, may force rocket fire from Gaza.
    Hamas, Israeli officials say, is interested in keeping Gaza out of the current round of violence due to Israel recently easing curbs on the blockade imposed on the seaside territory that has substantially improved the lives of residents there. Israel allows some 20,000 Gazans to enter Israel for work.
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    מעבר ארז
    מעבר ארז
    Palestinians entering Israel from Gaza to work
    Hamas is also working to rebuild its military strength in the wake of last year's 11-day conflict with Israel. The Gaza rulers prefer not to instigate another round of fighting before finishing the process unless they find themselves with their back against the wall.
    In the meantime, Egypt has stepped in, attempting to maintain calm and prevent the violence from spilling over from the West Bank to Gaza.
    Israeli troops continued their operations in the West Bank on Wednesday, to locate and apprehend Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorism.
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    עימותים בין פלסטינים לצה"ל בשכם
    עימותים בין פלסטינים לצה"ל בשכם
    Clashes in Nablus between IDF troops and Palestinians
    (Photo: EPA)
    Forces also clashed with Palestinian rioters in Nablus outside a Jewish shrine as settlers, protected by troops, began renovating the place after it was vandalized a number of days earlier by Palestinians.
    One man was killed in the clashes and at least 17 others were injured when Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops exchanged fire.
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