The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has announced the formation of a “popular army” in the besieged Gaza Strip to counter the Israeli regime’s aggression.
A spokesman for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said at a ceremony at the Jabaliya refugee camp on Friday that “the first section of the popular army for the liberation of al-Aqsa and of Palestine” would consist of 2,500 recruits.
Hamas said the new force is tasked with confronting any future Israeli aggression, particularly against the al-Aqsa Mosque in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).
Mohammed Abu Askar, a Hamas official, also noted that individuals over 20 years old could sign up “to be prepared for any confrontation” with Israel, adding that the popular force has been created “at a moment when the al-Aqsa Mosque is subject to serious Israeli violations.”
The announcement comes as the resistance movement and the people of Gaza are angry over the recent Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the al-Aqsa Mosque.
On Friday, Palestinian protesters held a demo at the Qalandia checkpoint, Beit Lahm and al-Khalil (Hebron) to express their anger at Israel’s decision to deny Palestinians under the age of 50 entry into the holy al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli regime’s troops used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
Earlier in the day, Tel Aviv deployed some 1,300 soldiers in and around the occupied Old City of al-Quds to suppress Palestinians protesting Israel’s violations in the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The mosque has recently been the scene of clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israelis.
Israel closed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound to Muslim worshippers a day after a 32-year-old Palestinian, Moataz Hejazi, made an attempt on the life of Yehuda Glick, an American-born Israeli settler, on October 29.
The Israeli rabbi ran campaigns for expansion of Israeli access to the mosque.
The al-Aqsa compound, located in the Israeli-occupied Old City of al-Quds, is a flashpoint holy Islamic site. The location of the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is the holiest site in Judaism. The mosque is Islam’s third holiest site after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
Over the past decades, Israel has tried to change the demographic makeup of al-Quds by constructing illegal settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population.