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Will struggle over Jerusalem transform into regional religious war?

Israel, the Palestinians and the United States underestimate the emotional impact of the struggle over Jerusalem on Arab public opinion, thus leaving the gate open for it to escalate to a wide-scale conflict.

Doomsday scenarios rarely play out the way they are predicted. Yet, not much imagination is needed to envision what could happen in the Middle East these days if a hand grenade were to be thrown at praying Muslims at Al-Aqsa Mosque or Jews at the Wailing Wall. At a time when religious fanatics on all sides seem to have the upper hand and appeal to large masses, the regional conflict is increasingly dominated by organizations such as the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so on. Also in Israel, religious zealots have discovered how easy it would be to set the region on fire. And so, a Middle Eastern "September 11" is not out of the question.

A senior security official in Ramallah told Al-Monitor of his concern that the current confrontations surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque could inflame the whole region. He accuses Israel for taking unilateral measures that change the status quo on the Temple Mount and is worried of Hamas exploiting the situation in favor of a jihadi confrontation with Israel, headed by the movement. He also voiced concern about IS captivating the imagination and the support of young Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip; thus inciting them to follow its lead into a religious war.

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