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Hamas warns Israel against 'violations' during Ramadan

Palestinians gather in the Al-Aqsa mosques compound before the Friday noon prayer in Jerusalem on January 27, 2023
— Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas warned Israel on Tuesday it would react to any possible "violations" at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, issued the warning less than two weeks before the start of Ramadan and amid an escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Salah al-Aruri, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, said the risk of escalation entirely "depends on the Israeli occupation's violations across Palestine and at Al-Aqsa mosque" located in annexed east Jerusalem.

Al-Aqsa, a Jordan-administered mosque compound, is the third holiest site in Islam. It is built on top of what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site.

Student supporters of the Islamist Movement Hamas march during a university election campaign rally in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 13, 2023

Any Israeli attempt to "impose" its policies during Ramadan would be met with the "reaction of our people," Aruri said in remarks carried by his movement's official website.

Hamas, meanwhile, has no plans to initiate an escalation during Ramadan, according to the English-language version of Aruri's remarks, although such a clarification does not appear in the Arabic version.

Under a longstanding status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there.

In recent years, a growing number of Jews, most of them Israeli nationalists, have covertly prayed at the compound, a development decried by Palestinians.

Israel's extreme-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, sparked global condemnation in January when he visited the site.

The Old City of Jerusalem

A controversial visit in 2000 by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon was one of the main triggers for the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which lasted until 2005.

Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 81 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.

Thirteen Israelis, including three children and one policeman, and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.