In a speech Saturday night filled with murderous threats and denunciations of Israel, Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar said the terror group “will not hesitate to take any steps” if Israel “violates” the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“Our people must prepare for a great battle if the occupation does not cease its aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Sinwar said.
“Violating Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem means a regional, religious war,” he said.
Gesturing at a photo behind him of Israeli police inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sinwar threatened violence against synagogues around the world if the action were repeated.
“Whoever makes the decision to allow this photo to be repeated, the violation of Al-Aqsa — he has decided to allow the violation of thousands of synagogues all across the world,” Sinwar said.
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In the over hour-long address, Sinwar praised the recent terror wave against Israelis that has left 15 dead; encouraged Palestinians in the West Bank and Arab Israelis to commit more attacks; hailed a “global shift” in favor of the Palestinian cause; and urged the Islamist Ra’am party to withdraw from Israel’s governing coalition.
But Sinwar, who directs Hamas’ Gaza bureau and serves as the enclave’s de facto governor, devoted most of his speech to threatening Israel over any actions at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount holy site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli forces at the compound, which is revered by both Muslims and Jews, helped spark a war between Israel and Hamas last May. The hilltop is Judaism’s most sacred site as the place of the biblical temples, and Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest shrine in Islam.
Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar is greeted by members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement, in advance of a speech in Gaza City, on April 30, 2022. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Ever since the May war, which Hamas dubbed “The Sword of Jerusalem,” the Gaza-based terror group has threatened to fire rockets at Israel if it violated the organization’s “red lines” in Jerusalem.
“We drew and raised that sword so that the enemy would know that Al-Aqsa did not stand alone, and that our nation would stand if Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem were violated,” said Sinwar.
Palestinians clashed repeatedly with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque over the past month, leading to fears that the violence could again spark a broader escalation. Palestinian rioters hurled stones at police, who responded with rubber bullets, sound grenades, and tear gas, injuring hundreds.
Israeli police also prevented extremist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir from marching through Jerusalem’s Old City, which the terror group had also intimated could spark rocket fire.
“The echo of this operation is only increasing,” said Sinwar.
Sinwar further accused Israel of seeking to partition the Temple Mount as a “first step” to “destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and build a temple” in its place. He cited as proof the uptick in Jewish visitors to the holy site over the past few years.
“Al-Aqsa is indeed in danger,” Sinwar said.
Sinwar hailed what he deemed the changing winds of global opinion against the Jewish state. He praised Palestinians in the diaspora, who he said had brought about the shift in public opinion.
“There is a worldwide shift in favor of the Palestinian cause, in many countries. Those who follow the media and political discourse see a change,” said Sinwar.
The address was Sinwar’s first major public appearance in almost a year. Last June, the senior Hamas member gave a 90-minute speech in the aftermath of the May war with Israel, laying out his vision of what the terror group had achieved.
“If the conflict breaks out again — the shape of the Middle East will change. We have proven that there are those who defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Sinwar boasted at the time.
Palestinians worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on the last Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, on April 29, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Weeks later, a new Israeli government was formed — this time with the support of the Islamist Ra’am party. Ra’am is the political branch of the Islamic Movement, some of whose senior leaders have ties with their counterparts in Hamas.
Sinwar slammed Ra’am and its party chief Mansour Abbas, whom he called “Abu Righal” — a legendary traitor in pre-Islamic legend.
“That you serve as a support to this government which violates Al-Aqsa is an unforgivable crime,” Sinwar said.
Ra’am suspended its membership in the coalition after the recent clashes between Palestinians and police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Although tensions have not escalated further, Ra’am has yet to officially rejoin the government.
Abbas has publicly embraced a political program that seeks to achieve tangible gains for Arab Israelis. In interviews in both Arabic and Hebrew, the Islamist has said that Israel “was a Jewish state and will remain so.”
“For an Arab to say that this is a Jewish state is the height of degeneracy,” said Sinwar. “You get a few achievements for Arab society, in exchange for the violation of Al-Aqsa?”
Sinwar also praised a wave of terror attacks that have left fifteen dead, the deadliest wave of violence against Israelis in years. On Friday night, two Palestinian gunmen shot dead a security guard outside the settlement of Ariel in the northern West Bank.
Hamas has not taken responsibility for any of the attacks — but the terror group’s officials have repeatedly extolled them. Sinwar singled out an attack by Ra’ed Hazem, a Palestinian from Jenin who killed three Israelis in late March on a bustling Tel Aviv boulevard.
“If one Palestinian with a pistol can do that in downtown Tel Aviv, what could ten elite resistance fighters do?” said Sinwar.
Sinwar praised Hazem’s father, retired PA security officer Fathi Hazem, for giving him “the best education, that produced an earthquake that shook [Israel].”
Palestinian rioters hurl stones toward Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 15, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
“Our people in the West Bank, youth of the West Bank, don’t wait for anyone’s decision! Individual acts have proven themselves exceptionally successfully,” said Sinwar.
As for Arabs living in Israel, he urged them, too, to kill Israelis: “Our people living inside the occupier state — in the Negev, in the [northern] Triangle, in Haifa, in Acre, in Jaffa and in Lod — everybody who has a gun should take it, and those who don’t have a gun should take a butcher’s knife or any knife he can get,” he said.
Sinwar also slammed the United States and the international community for supporting Ukrainian refugees, but not Palestinians.
“The world’s conscience is sensitive and delicate… in the face of blue-eyed refugees. Well, our people and its cause have persisted for seventy years,” said Sinwar.