Israel said it demolished the east Jerusalem home of a Palestinian involved in a deadly attack on a train stop from October. The demolition came a day after two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in Jerusalem. (AP)
JERUSALEM Israelis and Palestinians expressed fear Wednesday that their decades-old conflict was moving beyond the traditional nationalist struggle between two peoples fighting for their homelands and spiraling into a raw and far-reaching religious confrontation between Jews and Muslims.
The threat perhaps more accurately the dread of an incipient but deadly religious war was expressed by Muslim clerics, Christian leaders and Jewish Israelis one day after a pair of Palestinian assailants, wielding meat cleavers and a gun, killed five Israelis, including a prominent American Israeli rabbi, in a Jerusalem synagogue.
All of us are scared that there will be a religious war, that extremists from both sides will start fighting each other, said Oded Wiener, an Israeli Jew from the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.
For weeks, Jerusalem has been a center of clashes, protests and deadly attacks that began over one of the citys major flash points a contested religious site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Jewish activists have been pressing the Israeli government to insist that Jews be allowed to pray on the raised esplanade, which also harbors the al-Aqsa mosque, the third-most holy site in Islam.
In the first and second Palestinian intifadas, or uprisings, attacks against Israelis were largely propelled by Palestinian political and militant factions and leaders. These days, security officials say most are carried out by so-called lone-wolf terrorists who dont belong to any organized group. In the past, Palestinian attackers often made clear that they wanted to end the Israeli occupation of what they consider their lands. Today, some relatives of Palestinian assailants suggest that the attacks are motivated only by perceived threats against al-Aqsa.
In a bid for calm Tuesday, Wiener and leaders from across the religious spectrum joined in a prayer meeting Wednesday at the synagogue where Tuesdays attack took place. Weiner said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pressed for the gathering, which involved figures from each of Israels minority sects, including the Druze, Ahmadiyya, Circassian and Christian communities, as well as a leader of the Muslim groups in Israel.
But bitterness was also on display in the city. Sheik Mohammed Kiwan, head of the Union of Imams in Israel, who traveled to Jerusalem from the north of the country, tried to quiet tempers along the street outside the synagogue, whereneighbors and friends of those killed had gathered to pray. Young students of yeshivas Jewish religious schools confronted him, accusing him and all Muslims of inciting violence to kill Jews.
We condemn all acts of violence, Kiwan told them, remaining calm. This is a house of worship. It is irrelevant if it was a Muslim or a Jew that was killed here.
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Fear of deadly religious war between Jews and Muslims raised after synagogue attack