Tensions have heightened between Palestinian resistance forces and the Israeli regime after the latest act of aggression in the besieged Gaza Strip, the worst since the 11-day war in May.
The resistance groups in Gaza on Sunday pledged to step up protests to force the regime in Tel Aviv to remove its illegal and crippling blockade of the coastal enclave.
Following a news conference in Gaza, the groups issued a joint statement, asserting that the Israeli occupation “must bear the responsibility for its obstruction of the reconstruction of Gaza, and for the blockade”.
Participants in the news conference included Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and smaller resistance factions.
“We call on our people to continue their popular uprising in Gaza and to expand the points of engagement with the occupation, and our popular activity will proceed according to a plan,” said the statement. “We will not accept the continuation of the siege.”
It came a day after Israeli forces shelled the besieged Gaza Strip, wounding at least 41 Palestinians, followed by the bombardment of resistance positions in the enclave.
The Israeli army on Sunday announced troop reinforcements along the Gaza border in anticipation of rocket fire from the Palestinian territory, amid simmering tensions.
The latest aggression coincided with the 52nd anniversary of the torching of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds as protesters sought to draw the world’s attention to the blockade the Israeli regime and its allies have imposed on the besieged strip since 2007.
“Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line, and any attack on it will be met with valiant resistance from our people," Hamas said in a statement.
After thousands of people participated in the protest, the Israeli military said its fighter jets “struck four weapons storage and manufacturing sites” belonging to Hamas in response to a shooting incident that wounded an Israeli regime soldier near the Gaza fence.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the airstrikes showed that Israel is “trying to cover up its failure and disappointment in front of the steadfastness of our people and their valiant resistance.”
Ahmed Yousef, a senior Hamas official, said it was “natural that the Palestinian people who suffer under a crippling blockade move to take action to pressure Israel and the international community to take responsibility for the situation in Gaza”.
“The Palestinian protesters, and the Palestinian factions, want to raise their voice and remind Israel and especially the international community of their plight, and increasingly so after the recent war on Gaza, and the massive destruction the Israeli military caused,” he asserted.
The crippling blockade of the besieged Gaza Strip imposed by the Israeli regime and its allies in Cairo has devastated the local economy and living conditions of the inhabitants in Gaza.
According to reports, Egypt is moving close to blocking the Rafah crossing on its border with the Gaza Strip until further notice on Monday.
Hamas spokesman Iyad al-Bozom said the group had been informed by Cairo of the decision to close the border crossing in both directions, without divulging details.
Two Egyptian security sources were quoted as saying that the closure was made for “security reasons” following an escalation on Saturday between the Israeli regime and the Palestinian resistance groups, according to Reuters.
Rafah is the only crossing between Egypt and Gaza, where the Israeli-led blockade has placed severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people for years.
The Israel-Egypt collusion in enforcing the crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip has led to worsening humanitarian situation in the enclave.
The situation deteriorated considerably after the 11-day aggression by the Israeli regime in May, when over 260 Palestinians living in Gaza were killed, including women and children.
The military aggression also destroyed thousands of homes in the besieged enclave besides razing to ground high-rise buildings housing media offices.
“The scenes of destruction in Gaza are still everywhere,” Yousef was quoted as saying. “The message that the protesters want to convey is that the situation is unsustainable and its continuation will lead to more action by the Palestinians.”
Thousands of Palestinians have been taking part in weekly demonstrations in Gaza to protest against the crippling blockade. The peaceful protests have always been violently crushed by Israeli forces.
‘Threat to international peace, security’
The Arab League on Sunday warned that Israel’s insistence on continuing its aggression in al-Quds and at the holy al-Aqsa Mosque compound poses a serious threat to international peace and security.
The statement was issued on the occasion of the 52nd anniversary of the arson attack on the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Palestinian Information Center reported.
The mosque was set on fire by an Australian settler named Dennis Michael Rohan on Aug. 21, 1969 in coordination with Israeli military forces. The fire burned the southeastern wing of the mosque.
“The crime of burning the al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, which was committed by one of the Zionist extremists and terrorists, was a heinous and intentional crime that was masterminded by the upper echelons of the Israeli occupation authorities at the time,” the Arab League said.
The burning of the al-Aqsa Mosque, it said, “comes in the context of the occupation’s systematic and persistent policy and plans that target the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), the Islamic and Christian holy sites and al-Quds’ Arab identity and character with obliteration, forgery, settlement, and Judaization.”
The 22-member organization called on the international community to bear its responsibilities toward the occupied city of al-Quds and ensure protection of Palestinians against the Zionist enemy.