Tel Aviv, February 28: Hamas and Iranian proxy groups plan to turn the Islamic holy month of Ramadan into the "second phase of October 7," particularly with violence in Jerusalem, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warned on Tuesday. "The main goal of Hamas is to take Ramadan, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and turn it into the second phase of their plan that began on October 7. This is the main goal of Hamas, and it is being amplified by Iran and Hezbollah," Gallant said following a situational assessment.

"We cannot let them have this, and that means we need to do everything we can to bring calm to the area," Gallant stressed. "We must not give Hamas what it failed to achieve during the beginning of the war and [let it achieve] 'unity of the battlefields,'" he added, referring to efforts by Iran's proxies to create a multi-front war in Judea and Samaria, Lebanon and Syria. ‘Israel Will Continue to Defend Itself Against Hamas’: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Issues Statement on Decision Made by International Court of Justice.

This year, Ramadan is expected to begin at sundown on March 10. Israeli leaders have hinted that they will send ground forces into Rafah, Hamas's last stronghold if no agreement on a hostage release is made by then. "If we have a deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen. If we don't have a deal, we'll do it anyway," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the CBS News show, Face the Nation on Sunday. That same day, the military presented the Cabinet with a plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah, a precursor to entering the city. Hamas is believed to have four battalions in Rafah.

Since October 7, approximately 3,250 Palestinian terror suspects have been arrested in counterterror raids in Judea and Samaria, of whom 1,350 are associated with Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces said on Tuesday. Israel is also considering placing restrictions on access to the Temple Mount. In 2023, Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque and clashed with police officers. Palestinian terror has surged during Ramadan in recent years. Israel-Hamas War: US President Joe Biden Says Israel is Willing to Halt War During Ramadan if Hostage Deal is Reached.

Meanwhile, Hamas threatened an "explosion" of rage if Israel moves to restrict Muslim worshippers from visiting the Temple Mount during Ramadan. The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Jewish Temples were built, is the overall holiest site in Judaism. The Western Wall is the only remnant of a retaining wall encircling the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great in the first century and is the holiest site where Jews can freely pray.

Despite the tensions, 500,000 people visited the Western Wall and 2,200 Jews visited the Temple Mount during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which overlapped with Ramadan. At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas's attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)