Hamas chief urges unified Palestinian leadership of violence

Khaled Meshaal, exiled leader of Hamas, pictured on October 21, 2015, called on all Palestinian groups to form a unified leadership of the current wave of violence against Israel (AFP Photo/Rodger Bosch)

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called on all Palestinian groups Wednesday to form a unified leadership of the current wave of violence against Israel, which he called an intifada, or uprising.

Speaking by video-link from Qatar, the head of the Islamist group urged other organisations to join "an operational leadership of the intifada... to put in place an agreed strategy for common struggle covering all options."

Bloodshed that erupted at the start of October has claimed the lives of nine Israelis, 70 Palestinians and an Arab Israeli.

Much of the violence has involved Palestinians attacking Israelis with knives, or ploughing into them with vehicles, and about half the Palestinians fatalities consist of attackers who have been shot dead.

Neither Israeli or Palestinian leaders are calling the current wave of violence an intifada, but there are concerns on both sides that it could escalate into one.

In the first two intifadas, in 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, thousands of people were killed and many more wounded in near daily violence.

Meshaal called for "resistance in all of its forms, armed or not" in order to "confront the settlers and defend the Muslim holy places."

Simmering tensions boiled over in September regarding the status of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, before spiralling into a series of attacks from October 1.

Palestinians accuse Israel of seeking to change the rules governing the compound, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted he will not alter a status quo that forbids Jews from praying there.