update deskIsrael at War

Israeli security chiefs hold situational assessment ahead of Ramadan

Tensions are high in the days leading up to the Muslim holy month, with Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar reportedly seeking to incite violence during the holiday.

L-R: Israel Security Agency head Ronen Bar, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai hold a situational assessment ahead of Ramadan on March 3, 2024. Source: X.
L-R: Israel Security Agency head Ronen Bar, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai hold a situational assessment ahead of Ramadan on March 3, 2024. Source: X.

Israel’s military, police and domestic intelligence chiefs gathered on Sunday night for a situational assessment ahead of the month-long Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the meeting was held “to strengthen the coordination between the bodies and the operational readiness for all scenarios, alongside the desire to allow freedom of worship for Israeli Arabs and Judea and Samaria residents under security and safety restrictions.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halev, Israel Security Agency head Ronen Bar and Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai participated in the meeting.

Tensions are high ahead of the start of Ramadan next week, with fears that clashes could break out on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

According to Hebrew media reports, Israeli officials believe that Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar is not interested in a ceasefire agreement ahead of the holiday, but instead seeks to incite violence during Ramadan.

Qatar told Israel on Sunday that ceasefire talks will not be able to advance after Hamas failed to meet Jerusalem’s demand to provide the number of hostages still alive.

As a result, Israel did not send a delegation to the negotiations in Cairo on Sunday, after it was reported earlier in the day that U.S. and Emirati delegations were joining Hamas representatives in the Egyptian capital.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based leader of Hamas’s political wing, last week 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” 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 ongoing talks for a ceasefire deal with Israel.

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

In his speech, the terror 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 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 Oct. 7. This is the main goal of Hamas, and it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah,” Gallant said following an assessment at the headquarters in Jerusalem’s Neve Ya’akov neighborhood of the IDF Central Command, which is responsible for Judea and Samaria.

“We must not give Hamas what it failed to achieve during the beginning of the war,” he added, in reference to the terrorist group’s goal of sparking a multi-front war.

The Israeli War Cabinet last week decided against imposing sweeping restrictions on Arab Israelis’ access to the Temple Mount during Ramadan, which takes place from March 10 until April 9.

The Cabinet instead tasked the Israel Police with determining the cap for Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque based strictly on crowd control concerns, Channel 12 reported.

Some 50,000 to 60,000 worshipers, including Palestinians from Judea and Samaria, are expected to be allowed entry to the site initially. The number will be expanded if Ramadan prayers take place without security incidents, according to the report.

As in the past, only restrictions on individuals will be imposed, based on Israel Security Agency intelligence.

The Cabinet also decided it will be the sole body making decisions regarding the flashpoint site during Ramadan, sidelining National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees the police.

The decision comes 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, Channel 12 reported on Feb. 17.

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

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