The Islamist Hamas faction that rules Gaza called on Palestinians to step up a new uprising against Israel, as violence spilled into the Gaza Strip Friday. "Gaza will fulfill its role in the Jerusalem Intifada and it is more than ready for confrontation," Ismail Haniyeh, the movement's leader in the territory, said during a weekly sermon at a mosque in Gaza City, the Agence France-Presse reported. "It is the only path that will lead to liberation."
The call comes as unrest around the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem has spread to the West Bank in recent days. Clashes have broken out between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers across Palestinian cities. About 200 Palestinians in Gaza Friday reportedly marched toward the fence that surrounds the strip, throwing rocks and rolling burning tires, an Israeli spokesman told the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency. Israeli forces reportedly opened fire, killing at least four Palestinians and injuring at least 19 others.
Gaza remains politically split from the West Bank, amid a deep divide between the Gaza movement and the Fatah government that rules Palestinians in the West Bank. Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since it was elected to power in the Gaza Strip in 2006. A 50-day war last summer between militants in Gaza and Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people, almost all of them Palestinians.
Abbas, considered a moderate Palestinian leader, has in recent days sought to quell unrest and has said an escalation in violence would serve Israel’s interests.
Palestinians have grown increasingly disillusioned with a stalled peace process that has seen little gain toward the establishment of an independent state. In Gaza, the economy is worse than ever, as Israel has imposed a crippling blockade, heavily restricting exports and imports in a stated attempt to prevent goods that could be used to build rockets or dig tunnels. Palestinians in the West Bank have complained of expanding Israeli settlements and settler violence, and believe Israel has plans to divide the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem -- a claim Israeli officials deny.
At least 900 Palestinians have been injured in the last seven days in the West Bank in clashes with Israeli soldiers, according to Ma’an. Numerous Israelis have been stabbed in Israel and the West Bank in attacks by Palestinians in recent days, as some officials have called for Israeli civilians to take up arms. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has come under heavy criticism for his failure to stem the spread of violence. Many have questioned whether the recent unrest might mark the start of a third Palestinian uprising, or intifada.
The 2000-2005 Second Intifada led to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians and saw Israel's military presence expand throughout the West Bank.