Analysis: Hamas-Led Militant Groups Create Strife at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli police Friday morning at Al-Aqsa Mosque as the religious holidays of Ramadan and Passover were soon to overlap. It is the first major clash at the site since the May 2021 Gaza-Israel conflict.

Several weeks before Friday’s clashes, Gaza-based militant groups warned that Israel was planning to undermine the status quo by allowing Jewish activists to perform a prohibited ritual sacrifice on the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque for Passover.

Changes to the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque have regularly been a catalyst for Israeli-Palestinian violence and the possibility that it may occur during Ramadan was enough to rally Palestinians to defend the perceived threat.

Though some content was published on Facebook encouraging Jews to sacrifice a lamb or a goat on the grounds of the mosque, the Israeli police denied there were any plans to do so and blamed Palestinian militant organizations for provoking violence.

Despite Israeli police denying attempts to change the status quo, some Palestinians arrived at the mosque Friday morning armed with rocks and began to clash to with Israeli police.

After hours of fighting, which was reminiscent of last year’s clashes hours before rockets were launched by Hamas toward Jerusalem, police arrested 400 rioters and temporarily restored calm.

Having partially succeeded in creating a short-lived crisis on Friday, militant groups refrained from responding militarily after their self-imposed red lines were crossed by Israeli police activity on the grounds and inside Al-Aqsa Mosque.

It remains unclear if it was behind the scenes mediation, effective handling of the rioting or both that prevented the clashes from snowballing into a wider conflict.

However, a Western official who spoke to FDD’s Long War Journal cautioned there could be more violence in the coming days.

Hamas often exploits events in the West Bank and Israel. Added to the recent anti-terrorism operations by Israeli security forces that has claimed the lives of a number of militants, manufacturing a crisis at Al-Aqsa Mosque benefits Hamas by further destabilizing the already tense security situation left in the wake of four high-profile terrorist attacks inside of Israel.

Though Palestinian militant organizations seem to have been careful in not responding militarily from Gaza, it’s unlikely these conditions will remain if further violence continues.

Hamas official Zaher Jabarin echoed this assessment on Hezbollah-linked Al-Mayadeen on Sunday when he warned that if Israel continued to cross red lines at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the organization would respond militarily.

Zaher added the response would not necessarily come from Gaza or the West Bank, suggesting the Resistance Axis in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen or Iraq could also launch an assault.

Joe Truzman is an editor and senior research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal focused primarily on Palestinian armed groups and non-state actors in the Middle East.

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