OpinionIsrael at War

Sinwar’s Ramadan dream: Will the ‘Al Aqsa Flood’ reach Jerusalem?

Thus far, Hamas's dream of "unifying the fronts" has not materialized, much to the dissatisfaction of Yahya Sinwar and his cohorts.

Muslims pray near the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount during the Eid al-Adha holiday, June 28, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Muslims pray near the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount during the Eid al-Adha holiday, June 28, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Dan Diker (Facebook)
Dan Diker
Dan Diker is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the longtime director of its Counter-Political Warfare Project.
Khaled Abu Toameh
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award winning Arab and Palestinian Affairs journalist formerly with The Jerusalem Post. He is Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is hoping that the month of Ramadan, which begins this week, will see an upsurge in violence against Israel. This is why Sinwar is reluctant to move forward with negotiations for the release of the Israeli hostages. Sinwar and the Hamas “tunnel leadership” in Gaza have not lost hope that other Arabs and Muslims will join Hamas in its fight against Israel, a theme in Palestinian political culture since the First Intifada of 1987—nostalgia for Arab wars against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973. 

Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 Israelis and kidnapping of 253 others, the Iran-backed terror group’s leaders in Gaza have been trying to drag other Arabs and Muslims into a confrontation with Israel. To this end, Hamas’s branding of the 7 massacre as the “Al Aqsa Flood” followed former Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat’s similar branding of the “Al Aqsa Intifada” that began in 2000 when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount. At the time, Palestinian propaganda advertised the Second Intifada as a duty to defend Islamic holy sites, a still-popular theme in Palestinian media. Sinwar views himself as a great Muslim warrior who successfully planned an invasion of Israel, giving him “street credit” with Palestinians.

Hamas leaders such as Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, the overall commander of the group’s military wing, have been aspiring to what they term the “unity of the fronts,” a multi-front war against Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, together with Israel’s Arab population.

Thus far, the dream has not materialized, much to the dissatisfaction of Sinwar and his cohorts. Some Hamas leaders have not bothered to conceal their disappointment with their failure to ignite a multi-front confrontation with Israel. As far as they are concerned, the response from Hezbollah is below expectations. Hamas supporters have even mocked the Lebanese terror group for firing anti-tank missiles at the same Israeli military outpost for the past four months, indicating that Hezbollah is not serious about an all-out war with Israel.

Hamas is also disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm for a renewed intifada in the West Bank. Since Oct. 7, Palestinians in the West Bank have failed to take to the streets en masse to express solidarity with their brethren in the Gaza Strip. Despite the anti-Israel incitement by senior P.A. officials and media outlets, the West Bank has been relatively calm. Though there have been sporadic terrorist attacks in the West Bank and the Jerusalem area, their intensity is not significantly different compared to the past few years.

Similarly, Hamas is undoubtedly disappointed with its failure to drag the two million-strong Arab community inside Israel into a violent confrontation with their fellow Jewish citizens. The vast majority of Israel’s Arab citizens have refrained from acts of violence and displays of support for Hamas’s terrorism. There was no repeat of the May 2021 riots that mainly erupted in mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli cities.

There are several reasons why the Arab citizens of Israel have decided to sit on the fence. First, the fact that more than more than 20 Arab Muslims were killed during Hamas’s murder spree. Hamas did not differentiate between Arab and Jew, male and female, young and old, kidnapping several members of the Bedouin community in southern Israel. Second, Arab Israelis were shocked by Hamas’s savagery and barbarism and emphasized that Hamas did not represent the values of Islam or Arab culture. Third, the Arabs did not want to repeat the mistake of May 2021, which provided an excuse for some in Israel to label them as a fifth column and an enemy within.

Reverse the pressures

The Iranian regime and its Palestinian, Lebanese and Yemeni proxies are counting on American pressure on Israel to stop the war. Instead, the United States should place pressure on the Iranian regime. Sinwar is betting on the upcoming November 2024 elections in the United States to pressure Israel for a ceasefire. Hamas and Iran interpret their close observation of American administration statements by the likes of Biden and Harris to mean that their long-term strategy is working.

The potential Ramadan “earthquake” depends on Sinwar’s tactical and physical position. Questions have also been raised about what will happen in the Al Aqsa Mosque this Ramadan, which begins this week.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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