Call to Defend Palestinian Access to Al-Aqsa Mosque During Ramadan

Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, spoke on February 28 from Beirut. Haniyeh stressed that "the occupation and its partner, the United States of America, will not be able to obtain through political machinations what they did not obtain in fighting." He added that "any flexibility we show in negotiations is out of concern for the blood of our people."

"After 146 days of war, the occupation continues to practice the most horrific crimes known to humanity, including murder, extermination, displacement, and field executions," he said. He called the Israeli army "one of the most vile armies that humanity has ever known in its history."

While also urging the Axis of Resistance to step up attacks in support of Gaza, Haniyeh then called on the world, and particularly Arab leaders, to "confront this enemy and curb its aggression to discourage it from invading Rafah." He also called on Palestinians and Arabs at large to "break the siege of Al-Aqsa from the first day of the blessed month of Ramadan." This year Ramadan takes place from March 10 to April 9.

"The occupation delusively believes that it can [curtail the Al-Aqsa Flood] via measures against Al-Aqsa Mosque. The minimum that we accept in Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy sites is the status quo in accordance with international law."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office has already announced his government will "impose restrictions" on Muslim worshipers trying to access Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. According to reports in Hebrew media, Netanyahu acquiesced to the demands of Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, "who wants to limit Palestinian Muslims from the occupied West Bank -- as well as those with Israeli citizenship in the 1948-occupied territories -- from entering the holy site during Ramadan." The reports say the restrictions are to be based on age criteria and will be determined later.

On February 27, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said: "Hamas's main goal is to use Ramadan, with an emphasis on [Al-Aqsa Mosque] and Jerusalem, and turn it into the second phase of its plan that began on 7 October."

War cabinet member Benny Gantz also warned that if Israeli captives held in Gaza are not released by the start of Ramadan, Israel will broaden its assault in the Gaza Strip. Limiting access to Al-Aqsa Mosque came as Netanyahu said he would go ahead with a ground operation in Rafah regardless of any ceasefire deal.

U.S. President Joe Biden, in a statement dismissed by Israeli, Qatari and Palestinian officials, said he "expects" a ceasefire deal to be reached before the start of Ramadan.

This article was published in
Volume 54 Number 16 - March 5, 2024

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