update deskIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Gallant in Ramadan warning: ‘We are ready, don’t make mistakes’

Israel security forces are on high alert during the holiday.

Border Police officers in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el Amud, near the Old City, as Hamas declares a "Day of Rage," Oct. 20, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Border Police officers in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el Amud, near the Old City, as Hamas declares a "Day of Rage," Oct. 20, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant delivered a stern warning against Israel’s enemies in a video message marking the start of Ramadan on Monday.

“The month of Ramadan is an important month in which the Quran was revealed and in which there is an opportunity to improve neighborly relations and strengthen family ties,” the War Cabinet minister said.

“We are aware that the month of Ramadan may be a month of jihad. We tell everyone who is thinking of trying us—we are ready, don’t make mistakes,” the member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party continued.

Gallant began the message speaking in Arabic before switching to Hebrew.

He concluded by reminding that Israel “respects freedom of worship at Al-Aqsa [mosque in Jerusalem] and all the holy places,” before signing off with the traditional holiday greeting in Arabic: “Ramadan Kareem” (“Have a Generous Ramadan”).

Hamas is trying to incite a regional escalation during the Muslim holiday, according to a joint statement released by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday.

Hamas has been clear about its intentions regarding Ramadan for several weeks.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based leader of Hamas’s political wing, last month urged the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance” to step up attacks on Israel during the holiday, calling for a “broad and international movement to break the siege on Al-Aqsa mosque” in Jerusalem.

“Any flexibility in negotiations, out of concern for the blood of our people, is matched by a readiness to defend it,” said Haniyeh, referring to ceasefire talks.

The “Axis of Resistance” includes Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis and other Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the Middle East.

The terrorist leader also called on Palestinians in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to storm the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount on the first day of Ramadan.

Haniyeh’s comments came a day after Gallant warned that terrorist groups are plotting to increase attacks on the Jewish state during Ramadan.

“The main goal of Hamas is to take Ramadan, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and turn it into the second phase of their plan that began on October 7. This is the main goal of Hamas, and it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah,” said Gallant.

“We must not give Hamas what it failed to achieve during the beginning of the war and [let it achieve] ‘unity of the fronts,’” he added, in reference to the terrorist group’s attempts to spark a multi-front war.

Security personnel have been deployed in large numbers to the area of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City in preparation for possible violent outbursts. Hundreds of police officers will be positioned in key points throughout the Old City during the holy month, which ends on April 8.

Thousands of text messages were sent to residents of eastern Jerusalem, reading, “Dear parents, take care of your children and do not allow them to participate in acts of terrorism and violence, for their benefit and for their future.”

Additionally, leaflets were distributed across neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, warning against rioting on the Temple Mount.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week after meeting with security officials that Muslim worshippers can enter the Temple Mount “similar to the numbers in previous years” during the first week of Ramadan.

After the first week, Israel will reassess and a “decision will be made accordingly,” Netanyahu’s office stated.

“Israel strongly safeguards freedom of worship for all faiths, at all sites in Israel, especially the Temple Mount,” the office’s statement read. “Ramadan is sacred to Muslims. Its sanctity will be upheld this year, as it is every year.”

In the past, Jerusalem has permitted Palestinians and Israeli Arabs to visit the Temple Mount during Ramadan, and security brass supports maintaining that policy amid the war with Hamas in Gaza.

Some 50,000 to 60,000 worshipers, including Palestinians from Judea and Samaria, are expected to enter the site.

Netanyahu’s announcement came after the War Cabinet reportedly decided it would be the sole body making decisions about the flashpoint site, sidelining National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees the police.

The Cabinet decision came shortly after Ben-Gvir called for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria to be barred from the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month.

Ben-Gvir also pushed to ban Arab Israelis under the age of 70 from accessing the site.

At large Muslim gatherings on the Temple Mount, especially during Islamic holidays, people have often hoisted Hamas flags.

In a letter sent to Netanyahu on Saturday evening, Ben-Gvir warned “of the fear of not being able to deal with the overcrowding and congestion on the Temple Mount in the month of Ramadan, and of the significant gaps in the ability to implement the prime minister’s decision not to limit the number of worshippers on the Mount without endangering human life.

“Following this, I wave a bright red flag and ask to reconvene the Cabinet to re-discuss the decision.”

Israel’s National Security Council last week issued a travel warning for citizens during Ramadan.

Citing an increase in incitement to commit terrorist attacks, the council called on Israelis abroad to “take responsibility” and act in accordance with travel advisories.

“Muslim terrorist organizations see Ramadan as an opportunity to carry out terrorist attacks and acts of violence. During this period, the incitement and calls by elements of radical Islam (with an emphasis on global jihad organizations such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda) to carry out attacks are increasing,” the statement read.

According to the National Security Council, terrorist organizations are expected to exploit the war and tensions around the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa mosque to foment attacks against Israeli and Western interests abroad.

The NSC emphasized that the travel alert has not been raised for Ramadan, but stressed the need for members of the public to exercise caution and use good judgment.

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