The Hamas terror group on Wednesday threatened Israel over plans by Jewish activists to conduct ritual sacrifices on Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount, saying it would not allow it “at any cost,” and Gazan terror factions were set to convene to discuss a unified response to the alleged “aggressions.”
Israeli authorities vowed to stop any attempts to bring sacrificial animals to the complex, as they have in years past.
The Returning to the Mount extremist group, which advocates the construction of a third Jewish temple on the site that once housed the two biblical Temples, announced on Facebook Monday that it would be offering a cash prize to those who manage to sacrifice a lamb on the Temple Mount, and to anyone arrested trying to do so.
The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest. Jews are allowed to visit the compound, but not pray or perform religious rituals, as part of a delicate status quo.
A small group of Jewish extremists has occasionally sought to perform the Biblically mandated Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount. But, police have regularly detained the perpetrators, who do not appear to have successfully pulled off a sacrifice in recent years at the flashpoint holy site.
This year’s would-be sacrificers’ campaign has gained enormous traction in Palestinian and Arab media following the social media post offering cash prizes for those arrested in the act.
“Arrested? NIS 400. Arrested with a goat/lamb? NIS 800. Managed to sacrifice? NIS 10,000,” the post from Returning to the Mount read.
מקריבים קרבן פסח במקומו ובמועדו!*לא הצלחת? נעצרת? ניצחת!????*לאור איומי החמאס ולאחר התנגדות המשטרה לאפשר לנו להקריב קרבן…
The post drew threats from Hamas and condemnation from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
“We stress that this represents a dangerous escalation that crosses all red lines, as it is a direct assault on the belief and feelings of our people and our nation during this holy month,” Hamas said, referring to the month of Ramadan.
“We hold [Israel] responsible for all its repercussions,” it warned.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Arabic-language spokesperson denied there were any plans to bring sacrifices up to the hilltop, and said any attempts to do so would be halted.
“Allegations that there are Jews intending to slaughter sacrifices on Haram al-Sharif are completely false and have been promoted by Palestinian terror organizations and others in order to incite,” Ofir Gendelman said on Twitter.
“We will preserve the status quo in the holy places and will not allow any disturbance to security and public order in Jerusalem or anywhere else,” he added.
Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar was set to host a meeting of Gaza terror group factions Wednesday to discuss possible responses to the rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, according to pro-Hamas media.
Factions were slated to discuss “Zionist threats to invade the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday and conduct sacrifices,” among other issues, a senior source told Safa News.
Hamas official Zaher Jabareen said the terror group had informed mediators that Israel is “playing with fire” with its alleged “aggressions” in Jerusalem and against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“This is a red line and it is playing with fire, and the Palestinians cannot accept that,” Jabareen said.
Senior Islamic Jihad official Khadr Habib said his group would unite around the issue.
“The factions’ position will be a strong one. Everyone will support the decision issued,” Habib said.
Hamas has included the issue of the planned sacrifices in several statements over the past week, including in a statement praising a deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv.
The Temple Mount is the emotional epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and tensions there can easily snowball into wider conflagrations. Police actions to quell riots there last year helped trigger the 11-day war in Gaza in May.
Police say attempts to sacrifice lambs on the Temple Mount occur every year as zealots challenge longstanding restrictions by attempting to perform sacrifices in the spot in Jerusalem’s Old City where biblical Temples once stood.
Previous years have seen sacrifice ceremonies taking place, with police approval, in other areas of the Old City.
“The goal is to renew the Passover sacrifice. Yes, that’s the ambition. Every year we try to sacrifice and get arrested, this year we put out this ad and there has been a very impressive response,” Raphael Morris, head of Returning to the Mount, told Channel 12 news on Wednesday.
The Torah mandates the sacrifice of the pascal lamb on the eve of Passover, which begins on Friday night. According to the Bible, the meat is to be eaten on the first night of the festival, together with unleavened bread — matzah — and bitter herbs.
Jewish ritual sacrifices ended with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.