The Hamas terrorist organization has reportedly sent a message to Israel, warning that if new National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir follows through on his plan to visit the Temple Mount, it will “blow up the situation.”
The Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese outlet al-Mayadeen reported Monday that the statement, attributed to Hamas spokesperson Abd Al Latif Al Qanou, was passed to the Israeli government via Egyptian and UN mediators.
“The Zionist occupation’s aggression toward our people and its destruction of homes comes in the shadow of the criminal Ben Gvir’s intention to storm Al-Aqsa,” Al Qanou reportedly told the mediators.
Ben Gvir’s intention to ascend the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, “indicates that the fascist settler government has begun its plan to attack our people and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and declared war on it,” the statement said.
Ben Gvir plans to enter Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount in the next few days for the first time since entering his cabinet role last week, the far-right leader said Sunday evening.
Colleagues in his Otzma Yehudit party said Monday he would not be intimidated by Hamas threats. “I hope the policy [regarding Temple Mount and Hamas] will change” under the new government, “and that we show Hamas [who’s in charge],” said Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel.
Al Qanou warned that “Zionist aggression” will be “met with resistance,” and that Israeli leaders “will not achieve their goals.”
The statement described any “escalation” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque as representing a “detonator” that could “explode the situation.”
“Our nation and the brave resistance will not be silent in the face of the aggressive and fascist new government,” the statement concluded.
Another Hamas official, Harun Nasser al-Din, said in an earlier statement on Sunday that the group will “hold the occupying government responsible for any escalation if there is harm to Al-Aqsa, or to our people defending Jerusalem.”
“We call on our people to protect Al-Aqsa, and we are sure that our people will sabotage any attempt to enforce a new reality at Al-Aqsa.”
Ben Gvir’s office has informed police that he wished to visit on Tuesday — the 10th day of the month of Tevet, a Jewish fast day mourning the events that led to the destruction of the Temple that once stood in the holy site — or on Wednesday, the Kan public broadcaster reported, citing a source involved in the matter, adding that the timing was subject to change.
The Temple Mount is believed by Jews to be the historic location of the two Jewish Temples. It is the third-holiest site for Muslims, who refer to it as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary.
Following the report, Ben Gvir, a long-time advocate for Jewish prayer rights at the site, confirmed in a tweet that he intended to visit the Temple Mount, but did not specify a date.
“I thank the media for taking an interest in the issue of visits to the Temple Mount,” Ben Gvir wrote in response to the report. “Indeed, the Temple Mount is an important topic, and as I said, I intend to visit the Temple Mount,” he added.
“As for the timetable — I promise to let you know when I do visit. I would be delighted if every evening’s newscasts would begin with reports dealing with the question of when I intend to visit the Temple Mount,” Ben Gvir said.
The highest echelons of police were set to deliberate Ben Gvir’s request on Monday, including Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, Kan reported.
The network noted that the very fact that news of the request had leaked could mean the visit would be pushed off in order to avert Palestinian unrest.
Ben Gvir has long been an advocate of altering the Temple Mount status quo, in which Muslims are allowed to pray and enter with few restrictions, while Jews can only visit during limited time slots via a single gate, and walk on a predetermined route, closely accompanied by police, who prevent them from praying and bringing in Israeli flags and Jewish religious items. Palestinians and most of the international community vehemently reject any changes to the current situation, although most Palestinians also object to any Jewish Israeli presence at the site, including police officers tasked with preserving security.
Ben Gvir held a handover ceremony with his predecessor Sunday. The Israel Police sets day-to-day policies at the Temple Mount, potentially giving Ben Gvir significant sway over arrangements at the flashpoint site.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to assure Israel’s allies that he will not allow any changes, and he had a clause included in all of his coalition deals stipulating that the status quo “with regard to the holy places” will be preserved.
However, critics point to what they say has been the gradual erosion of the policy, with Orthodox Jewish pilgrims often seen praying quietly at the site in recent years as Israeli police look on.
In an interview last Wednesday, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned the new Israeli government not to cross Jordan’s “red lines” with regard to Jerusalem’s holy sites.
The Temple Mount is believed by Jews to be the historic location of the two Jewish Temples, making it Judaism’s holiest place. It houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site.
Israel captured the Temple Mount and Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. However, it allowed the Jordanian Waqf to continue to maintain religious authority atop the mount. Under their 1994 peace treaty, Israel recognized Amman’s “special role… in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.