A senior Hamas official Saturday called on Palestinians to take up arms to “defend” the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem after a rise in Jewish visitors to the flashpoint site.
“The only solution to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque and to prevent Israelis from carrying out their plans there is for West Bank and Jerusalem residents to take up arms,” Mahmud Zahar said in an interview posted on the Islamist movement’s website.
Tensions have been high in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem recently, with Palestinians and Israeli police clashing at the site, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Zahar’s call comes after numerous attacks on Palestinians were reported in the West Bank Friday as Israeli troops searched for the suspected Palestinian killers of a Jewish settler couple shot in front of their young children.
“Until now weapons have only served to protect the settlers and the occupiers,” added Zahar, whose movement rules the Gaza Strip. “But we should not forget the West Bank has great human resources that can be mobilised at any moment.”
“The image of Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem throwing stones and Molotov cocktails has dealt a blow to the occupier,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month vowed “war” on stone-throwers.
His security cabinet broadened the rules under which they can be targeted by live fire, while setting minimum sentences and authorising larger fines for stone-throwing minors and their parents.