Just hours after it seemed to end, a bloody two-week standoff over Jerusalem’s holiest site roared back to life. On Thursday morning, Israel removed the last of its new security installations from the entrances to the Al Aqsa mosque. Police had put up metal detectors and cameras after a July 14 shooting that killed two officers nearby. Palestinians condemned the changes, fearing that Israel was trying to expand its control over the site; they refused to pass through the scanners and instead held prayers in the alleys below.
When the final bits of security apparatus came down early on Thursday, Muslim religious leaders ended the 11-day prohibition on entering the mosque. The decision seemed to head off large protests scheduled for Friday.
Or perhaps not: Minutes after worshippers returned, Israeli police wounded dozens with stun grenades and rubber bullets. The police said Palestinians threw stones at them, though Amnesty International called the shooting “unprovoked.” An officer went up on the roof of the Aqsa compound and removed a Palestinian flag, and the video quickly bounced around social media, likely to inflammatory effect.
The crisis, which has already killed eight people, seems likely to drag on. Even if it does not, though, it has offered a microcosm of the state of this long-running conflict. A few ordinary people drove the unrest of the past two weeks: three young gunmen and a teenager with a screwdriver. And many ordinary people led the protest movements that sprung up in response. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders only had bit roles to play in this popular drama—and when they did act, it was largely to pander to their shrinking political bases.