Armed Hamas members gather to pay tribute to those who died after a tunnel collapsed in the Gaza Strip. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Hamas, Islamic Jihad Threaten Israel after Jews Ascend Temple Mount

Gaza Strip-based and Iranian-sponsored Hamas and Islamic Jihad have threatened Israel with military action after some 1,700 Jews were permitted to visit the Temple Mount – known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif – on Tisha B’av. Clashes broke out Sunday atop the holy site, after some 80,000 Muslims held morning prayers marking the Eid al-Adha festival, which this year coincided with the Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of both biblical temples. The violence erupted despite an initial decision by Israeli authorities to ban Jews from accessing their holiest place. Hamas chief Ismael Haniyeh warned that, “we are tracking Israel’s steps” and deemed the latest conflagration a “violation of the rights of millions of Muslims.” A spokesman for Gaza’s rulers congratulated those who “fend[ed] off the settlers,” [Palestinian means of characterizing Israelis with what has become intended to be pejorative – ed.] and called on every Palestinian to “come to Jerusalem and defend al-Aqsa Mosque,” which is located on the Temple Mount. An Islamic Jihad official stated that, “Israel is trying to impose a new reality [regarding] al-Aqsa Mosque and there will be consequences for it.” Meanwhile, Israeli media reported that the Waqf – a Jordanian- and Palestinian-run trust tasked by Israel with custody over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City – had used loud speakers to urge Muslim worshipers to crowd the complex in order to keep Jews gathered outside from ascending. In response to the violence – which injured at least four Israeli police officers and dozens of Muslims along with numerous Jewish civilians – the Israeli government green-lighted the opening of the Temple Mount to Jews later in the day.

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