Around 20 Jewish pilgrims, including some minors, were arrested early Sunday morning as they tried to reach Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank town of Nablus, the IDF said in a statement.
Nablus, a Palestinian city, is in Area A of the West Bank, putting it under full Palestinian Authority control and entry into the area is forbidden for Israelis without prior authorization with Israeli officials.
According to right-wing legal action group Honenu, which is representing the suspects, four them managed to reach the tomb where they were arrested by Palestinian security forces before being handed over to the IDF.
The rest of the group was intercepted on an approach road to Nablus by Israeli security forces. All of the suspects were taken to an Israeli police station in the settlement of Ariel.
“Early in the morning, IDF received reports of 20 young Jews who entered Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus without first coordinating with the security forces,” the army said in a statement.
The suspects, young adults and minors, were arrested and taken for questioning on suspicion of violating a legal order, and entering a closed area without a permit while endangering their lives and that of security forces.
“After being questioned, the suspects will be brought to the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court for a hearing,” the IDF said.
Honenu, a legal aid group known for representing right-wing elements, including some extremists, claimed the four who had been held by Palestinian forces had been beaten.
According to the Honenu statement, one of those who was beaten was refused medical treatment.
Jospeh’s Tomb is venerated by Jews, Christians and Muslims and has often been a flashpoint for sectarian violence.
Jewish pilgrims are usually only allowed to visit the tomb once a month under heavy armed guard. During these visits, Palestinians routinely throw rocks at the troops, though there have been incidents where shots were fired at the troops.
In 2011, an Israeli man was killed when Palestinian police opened fire on Israeli cars attempting to reach the tomb without prior coordination.