Hamas, Islamic Jihad Not Seeking Escalation With Israel, Gazan Official Says

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Protests in the Gaza Strip against increasing tensions in Jerusalem, Friday night.
Protests in the Gaza Strip against increasing tensions in Jerusalem, Friday night.Credit: MOHAMMED ABED - AFP

Hamas and Islamic Jihad sent messages to Egypt on Saturday telling them the Gaza militant group is uninterested in an escalation of hostilities with Israel, after 36 rockets were fired from the Strip at Israel overnight, a Palestinian official in Gaza told Haaretz.

The official said that the fact that two small militant groups claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, rather than the joint headquarterse of Palestinian factions in Gaza, "is a sign that an escalation is not expected." Hamas likely knew about or turned a blind eye to the launches, assessments say, but do not intend to exacerbate the situation. 

The two militant factions – the Fatah-affiliated Nidal al-Amoudi Division of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and PFLP armed wing Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades – cited the tensions in Jerusalem as the catalyst for the launches.

Violent clashes in Jerusalem have ramped up in recent days, and reached a crescendo on Thursday night as far-right Jewish activists marched through the streets. A hundred and five Palestinians were wounded, with 22 being hospitalized in moderate condition, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. At least 50 people were arrested, including both right-wing extremists and Palestinians. The tensions began after a number of videos of Palestinians assaulting Jews in the area of Damascus Gate were posted on TikTok.  

On Saturday morning, Israel had initially instructed the residents of Gaza border communities to remain close to bomb shelters, but signaled a return to routine two hours later. The decision was made after Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire through intermediaries, after which the Israeli military assessed that rocket launches were unlikely to continue. As of Saturday afternoon, the calm has held.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanoa said Saturday morning that the "Palestinian resistance forces in the Strip are ready to block any aggression and set the tone of the response to any fire and aggression from Israel." He added, "The Palestinian people and resistance forces support and identify with the Palestinians in Jerusalem."

Jordan also condemned the violence in Jerusalem; its foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said Saturday that the state "Condemns the Israeli aggression in Jerusalem and is warning against its consequences; Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque are a red line." He added, "Israel cannot play with fire, the international community needs to act to stop the aggression, which contravenes international law."

Islamic Jihad released a statement saying that "The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line, and the Palestinian people stand behind Al-Aqsa and the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and will not allow settlers to harm the holiness of the mosque." It added, "The resistance forces will respond to any aggression and provide defense to the Palestinian people." 

In the West Bank, Palestinian factions are calling for demonstrations in support of Palestinians in Jerusalem on Saturday night. According to their plans, protest marches will be held in Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and Jenin after the Ramadan breakfast meal.

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