At the Lions Gate, Palestinians insist metal detectors are part of an Israeli Temple Mount power grab, to be resisted at all cost.
A week later, since Israel had barred men below 50-years-old from entering the Old City, only a few young men roamed through the crowd — overwhelmingly locals of the walled city — handing out cold water. Women of all ages were allowed in.
Around 10 minutes before prayers began, police barricaded off worshipers at the Lions Gate from the rest of the city.
If clashes would break out, there would be little room for anyone to escape.
But despite feared violence, when the prayers were over, most worshipers quietly left the area, with many of them telling one elderly man at the exit, “Salam Alekom,” peace be upon you.
It was a clear success for the police, but a misleading one. Clashes had already begun outside the Old City walls, and would soon engulf whole neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city and spread into the West Bank. By nightfall, hundreds would be injured and three Palestinians would be killed.
Later in the night, three Israelis — a father, his son and daughter, eating their Shabbat eve meal — would be stabbed to death in their home by a 19-year-old Palestinian terrorist, who asserted he was defending Al-Aqsa from Israeli defilement.
But here, in this little slice of the Old City where this new escalation of horror began with the July 14 attack, and where minor clashes had raged for the past six days straight, a brief calm prevailed.
Though there were signs of what was to come. Beyond the barricades, hundreds of worshipers who had held their own prayers, ended their service with chants of “Khayber, Khatber, Oh Jews, the army of Mohammad will return.”
Khayber was an Arabian Jewish town whose residents were slaughtered by Mohammad in the seventh century.
Until this Friday, Jerusalemite Abid Alfkhawi, 72, didn’t think the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians had slipped into a battle between religions.
But Israel’s installation of metal detectors at the Temple Mount compound — a change to the status quo, say Muslim leaders; a self-evidently necessary security measure, says Israel — has changed that, he said. Now he believes the conflict is entering a new chapter.
“From today onward, this is a religious war,” he said. “Al-Aqsa is not a red line, it’s a line of war,” he added.
At the Lions Gate where a deadly attack on July 14 prompted the latest escalation, Palestinians insist metal detectors are part of an Israeli Temple Mount power grab, to be resisted at all costs.
Reported by: Israel, Islam & End Times