Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was quoted on Thursday as saying that it was the responsibility of all to “liberate the Aksa Mosque and Palestine.” Mashaal, who is currently on a visit to South Africa, said in a speech at a mosque in Pretoria, that Hamas was “opposed to ideological extremism.” Hamas, he claimed, has chosen the path of “moderation” and is not hostile towards anyone because of his belief. “Hamas believes in a struggle against the oppressors,” he said.
Hamas s leader in Gaza has declared the current unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank an intifada, as six Palestinians were shot dead protesting at the border fence, further raising the stakes after a week of escalating violence. The comments by Ismail Haniyeh contradicted recent remarks by Fatah s leadership, including the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. There has been increasingly widespread use of the hashtag #intifada on Palestinian social media.
A Sephardic Jewish spiritual leader said Thursday that Jewish presence on the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem was part of the reasons for the current deterioration in the security situation. “Of course this [Jews visiting the Temple Mount] sparked all the current tumult,” Rabbi Shimon Ba adani said. The Council of Torah Sages for the ultra-Orthodox Shas party recently shelved a letter in which it calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue a sweeping prohibition against the entry of Jews onto the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, based on the view that halakha, Jewish religious law, bars Jews from treading on the site of the two ancient temples that once stood on the site. The prime minister has since barred any lawmakers from visiting the site.