Attacks and Threats Increase in Reaction to Mugrabi Gate Project
Posted: March 12, 2007
In reaction to salvage excavations near the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, which started at the beginning of February 2007, Palestinian terror groups have increased their attacks against Israel. In addition, terrorist and other radical groups have staged protests and issued warnings, some threatening continued attacks against Israel as well as against Jewish places of worship abroad.
The attacks and threats coincide with an incitement campaign led by Palestinian Authority-appointed officials and leaders of the Islamic Movement in Israel. They also coincide with a wave of protests, which started in Jerusalem and spread throughout the Muslim world. According to Israeli security forces, the campaign to "save Al Aksa" is directed by Hamas.
The campaign is based on the allegation that Israeli excavations are a part of a larger plan to destroy Al Aksa compound, which is considered the third holiest place to Muslims, in order to build a Jewish temple. This charge has been used by the Palestinians as a tactic to mobilize popular outrage against Israel for decades. Some observers suggest that the current assault may be an attempt to focus the attention of rival militant factions on Israel, after months of intense inter-Palestinian fighting. The campaign, including the allegation that Israel plans to destroy Al Aksa, was echoed in the press throughout the Muslim world and in statements by high level officials.
A few days after the excavation began, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) head Ramadan Abdullah Shallah held meetings with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran to discuss the situation, after which Iran and PIJ leaders threatened to escalate the violence. The PIJ indeed increased its terrorist activity throughout February, though not all its terrorist activities were immediately connected to its position regarding the Israeli excavations in Jerusalem. For example, on February 20, Israeli security caught a would-be PIJ suicide bomber in Bat Yam, a Tel Aviv suburb. Two days earlier, PIJ members killed an Israeli man near the city of Hebron in the West Bank.
The PIJ also threatened to attack U.S. interests after the FBI announced a five million dollar reward for information leading to the capture of its leader, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah. In an interview with Al Arabiya television, PIJ spokesman Khaled al-Batsh claimed that the reward was part of an American attempt "to cover the crimes that are happening in the holy Al Aksa mosque." He further said that "the United States and its associates in the area will bear the responsibility for any consequences that follow this decision [regarding Shalah]."