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Hamas, Palestinian Jihad Call to Increase Attacks in West Bank, Jerusalem

Palestinian Hamas militants take part in an anti-Israel rally in Gaza City May 22, 2021. © Mohammed Salem, Reuters

In Beirut, Lebanon, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PJI) and Hamas officials met to discuss how the groups should engage and increase their actions against Israel. The meeting comes as several of their followers died in clashes with IDF forces in the West Bank’s Nabulus last Monday, as Palestinians were rioting against Jewish worshipers near Joseph’s Tomb.  

While it is customary for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to call for increased attacks against Israel when one of their followers dies trying to attack Israelis, the meeting revealed short- and long-term goals to terrorize and harm Israel and Israeli citizens. 

One of the issues that officials of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PJI) discussed was that Jewish worshipers were planning on “rallying” in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound or the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the upcoming Jewish holidays such as Passover and others. Should that happen, the officials called on Islamic worshipers to converge on the Temple Mount and prevent Jews from attending the site, stating that it would trigger a “religious conflict” or jihad.  

In the past and today, Hamas and Islamic Jihad followers have used the al-Aqsa Mosque to store rocks and other weaponry against Israelis trying to visit the holy site. 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad also called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank to halt any cooperation with Israeli security forces.  

The two groups also discussed taking action against what they call ‘Israeli escalation of Palestinian land’, and the alleging that ‘occupied Israeli officials’ are ‘Judaizing’ Jerusalem while displacing Palestinians. 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials also addressed what they describe as the ‘siege’ of the Gaza Strip and the ‘abuse’ of terrorist prisoners and detainees. 

Both factions have continuously pushed for more militant actions against the Israeli government, suggesting tactics such as suicide bombings, launching and storing missiles and weaponry in civilian places. 

According to Joe Truzman, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), argues that “the U.S. and Israel should continue to treat both groups as terrorist organizations and highlight their continued threats including the support they receive from Tehran.” 

“Hamas, PIJ, and other Palestinian terror organizations have been building a narrative of being the defenders of the Palestinian people, including Arab Israelis to gain popularity in the West Bank over the Palestinian Authority,” Truman stated. He further explains that the May 2021conflict where Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem in the name of defending Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and those fighting with IDF forces near al-Aqsa Mosque and inside of it was “an excuse to further its interests among the Palestinian and Arab population at home and abroad.” 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad urged followers to take up arms and unite under one banner to defend the al-Aqsa Mosque and liberate Palestinians from the Israeli occupation.  

Arab leaders who have expressed sympathy with the Palestinians have been hesitant to support Hamas and Islamic Jihad because of their close ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran and fear of being overthrown by their radical leadership. 

While Arab countries are distancing and condemning the actions of these two terrorist groups, radical Islamic governments like Iran have stood side by side with both groups and continue to fund their activities both economically and militarily. 

When asked if the calls from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to increase attacks against Israel revolves around the future Iran nuclear deal, Truzman emphasized that the financial rewards Tehran will receive from the agreement will “likely be used to further arm its proxies and Palestinian terrorist organizations in Gaza.”  

Joe Truzman, like many other analysts, believes that “the deal emboldens Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other organizations who benefit from Iranian assistance to continue threatening Israel knowing that support for their cause will likely increase after a deal is reached.” 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have condemned countries such as Morocco, Bahrain, Egypt, and others for normalizing ties with Israel, accusing them of traitors and sellouts against the Palestinian people.  

According to Truzman, Hamas feels it faces isolation because of the “recent thawing of relations between Israel and one of Hamas’ main backers, Turkey.”  

Truzman believes that the normalization process between Israel and the Arab states does not relate to the calls for more terrorist actions because of how Hamas and Islamic Jihad have “continually called for attacks long before normalization came about.”

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