update deskIsrael at War

IDF: Ramadan flare-up could lead to multi-front or even regional war

Israel should prepare for "unusual" terrorist activity involving "areas that have not been part of the campaign so far," the army warns.

Palestinians protest after Friday prayers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Jan. 27, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Palestinians protest after Friday prayers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Jan. 27, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.

Palestinian terrorist groups could exploit the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to provoke a multi-front war against Israel, Channel 12 News reported on Thursday, citing military intelligence that reached the desk of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Religious triggers, primarily the Temple Mount, during the month of Ramadan, may lead to a flare-up and escalation on multiple fronts or even regional, while turning the war into a religious war,” IDF Military Intelligence Directorate head Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva warned.

According to IDF intelligence, Ramadan, which begins this year on the evening of March 10, give or take a day, could bring about the realization of “heightened and unusual threats from all arenas and all dimensions, possibly while attempting to create Palestinian, ‘axial’ and multi-arena coordination to renew and intensify the attack on Israel.”

The Jewish state should prepare for “unusual” terrorist activity involving “areas that have not been part of the campaign so far,” added Haliva.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu’s office announced that Muslim worshippers can enter the Temple Mount “similar to the numbers in previous years” during the first week of Ramadan.

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

Netanyahu made the announcement after meeting with security officials. 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 worshippers, including Palestinians from Judea and Samaria, are expected to enter the siteThe number will be expanded if Ramadan prayers take place without security incidents.

As in the past, only restrictions on individuals will be imposed, based on concrete intelligence information.

Late last month, Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based leader of Hamas’s political bureau, urged the Iran-led “axis of resistance” to step up attacks on Israel during Ramadan, calling for a “broad and international movement to break the siege on Al-Aqsa mosque.”

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

In his speech, the terrorist leader called on Palestinians in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to storm the Temple Mount on the first day of Ramadan.

Haniyeh’s comments came a day after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that terrorist groups are plotting to step up violent 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,” Gallant told troops at the headquarters in Jerusalem of the IDF Central Command, which is responsible for Judea and Samaria. “This is the main goal of Hamas, and it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah.

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

On Wednesday, the Israel Police’s Southern District and the Border Police conducted a mass preparedness exercise in preparation for Ramadan. Dubbed “Roaring Lion,” the training was the largest operational exercise in the district’s history, police said.

Security personnel drilled numerous scenarios in various locations, including attacks in crowded and public spaces places and disturbances in prisons, as well as coordination with other security agencies.

“We must make sure that the district’s defense line that was not breached on October 7 and prevented the terrorists from crossing the borders of the district and penetrating deep into Israeli territory … will never be breached,” said Southern District head Cmdr. Amir Cohen.

“The extensive operational experience we gained on October 7 is being translated … into the largest operational exercise carried out in the district, whose entire purpose is to strengthen preparedness and professional competence for extreme scenarios,” Cohen said.

Earlier this week, Israel’s National Security Council issued a notice warning that 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.

“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 National Security Council said.

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