Four Israeli soldiers were wounded while operating inside the West Bank city of Nablus late Wednesday night, after being targeted by a large explosive device detonated by Palestinian fighters, the military said and footage showed.
Videos and images circulated by Palestinian media outlets showed a large column of smoke rising after the blast, which came as troops were in the area.
The Israel Defense Forces said an officer and three soldiers were wounded as they walked past the explosive device when it was set off. The officer and two of the soldiers were listed in good condition, and the third soldier was listed in moderate condition, the IDF said. All four were taken to the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.
A local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its members detonated a roadside bomb near Israeli forces as they entered the city.
Israeli troops were operating in Nablus to secure the entry of Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb shrine in the West Bank city.
Clashes were reported elsewhere in Nablus amid the operation.
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The entry to the shrine, escorted by Israeli soldiers, was to continue despite the explosion.
“The explosion occurred where security forces were operating to secure the routes, not on the route [itself] for the entrance of civilians to the compound. The entrance of worshippers to Joseph’s Tomb will continue as usual,” the IDF said.
Busloads of Orthodox Israelis visit Joseph Tomb’s under IDF protection on a monthly basis, if not more frequently, and the pilgrimages almost always spark violent clashes with Palestinian locals when the IDF enters Nablus beforehand to secure the area for the arrival of the hardline pilgrims.
The shrine, regarded by some as the final resting place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, is located inside Area A of the West Bank, which is officially under complete Palestinian Authority control, though the Israeli military regularly enters, despite Palestinian opposition.
The IDF bars Israeli citizens from entering Area A without prior authorization, and some criticize the monthly incursions as an unnecessary provocation that places Israeli soldiers at risk.
Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.
Palestinians in the West Bank have targeted Israeli troops with roadside bombs several times over the past year. In June, eight soldiers were wounded after a massive explosive device was detonated next to an army convoy in Jenin.