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ISA Chief visits US, warns of Ramadan violence

Concerns are growing in Jerusalem over a resurgence of Palestinian rioting during observance of the upcoming Islamic holiday.

By Erin Viner

Director of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) Ronen Bar reportedly made the statements during talks with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and other senior United States officials, during his first known visit to Washington since taking office five months ago.

The ISA is the domestic security service, also known by its Hebrew acronym, the Shin Bet.

The recent spate of Arab terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank has heightened concerns over a renewal of major riots that marked last year’s observance of the Muslim fast month of Ramadan. Near-nightly clashes between Muslims and Jerusalem police prompted full scale fighting with Gaza when Palestinian terror groups based in the territory fired more than 4,000 rockets at the Jewish State during the ensuing 11-day  Operation Guardian of the Walls last May.

The Israeli security establishment is particularly on alert over the expected rise in visitors of all three monotheistic faiths in April for celebration of their respective holy days.

Christian observance of Easter is on 17 April this year, while Jewish celebration of Passover falls on 12-22 April. Both holidays coincide with Ramadan, which is set to begin 2 April and conclude 2 May.

Easter is a traditional time of pilgrimage to the Holy Land to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Passover, which celebrates the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom, is one of three Biblically ordained Pilgrimage Festivals calling for visitation to Jerusalem.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has already expressed trepidation over the confluence of next month’s religious holidays. The Times of Israel cited one Washington official as describing the convergence as a “recipe for disaster in Jerusalem.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman last week to discuss the coordination of strategies to secure calm in Jerusalem.

“We agreed that we must act together mainly towards the month of Ramadan and the Passover holiday and the concern about the security tension in Jerusalem,” said Foreign Minister Lapid following the talks.

While Israel asserts sovereignty over all of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible capital,” Jordan’s Hashemite ruling family is the Custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in east Jerusalem. The city was reunited in the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the eastern portion of the city and parts of the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and Gaza from Egypt.

Despite Israel’s recent increase of the number of Gazans permitted to enter the country for work in a goodwill gesture for the continuation of calm on the southern border, Jerusalem defense officials are reportedly on alert for possible ‘symbolic acts of terror’ emanating from the Islamist-Hamas controlled Palestinian enclave.

The new jobs will “serve calm and security stability,” said IDF Colonel Moshe Tetro, the head of Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) for Gaza, which is responsible for implementing the Israeli government’s civilian policy.

Linking the improved conditions to de-escalating violence, Col. Tetro underscored that “If the security situation remains stable and calm, the State of Israel will open up more and more.”

Hamas, an acronym in Arabic for the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” clearly identifies with the global Muslim Brotherhood by inclusion in its Charter of the Islamist Movement slogan: “Allah is its goal, the Prophet is the model, the Qur’an (Koran) its constitution, Jihad its path, and death for the sake of Allah its most sublime belief.”

The radical Islamist Palestinian group, which was founded in 1987, advocates “armed resistance” to annihilate Israel and is adamantly opposed to the Mideast peace process.  Hamas seized control of Gaza in an internecine 2007 war from its bitter Fatah rival, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Both Israel and Egypt imposed restrictions on their respective crossings into Gaza following the takeover to prevent the flow of contraband to the terror group.

The Iran-backed Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups has waged 4 wars against the Jewish State since 2008.

ISA Director Bar and the FBI chief also discussed shared challenges faced by Israel and the US, including cyber warfare.