Five Jewish Israelis were lightly wounded overnight Saturday in a confrontation with Palestinian police in Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. They were eventually extracted from the compound by IDF troops.
The five were among a larger group of about 30 people who entered the holy site without first obtaining security clearance, police said. Palestinian police then came to the Tomb and a confrontation with the worshipers quickly turned violent.
Palestinians pulled them from their cars and then torched one of the vehicles, reports said.
Police said the five worshipers suffered bruises all over their bodies, and were treated at the scene by army paramedics. They were set to be transferred to a hospital for thorough examination and then brought to court to be remanded. They are suspected of violating security regulations by going to the site without prior coordination.
The incident occurred only two days after a large group of Palestinians set fire to Joseph’s Tomb.
Israel police said that the group, students at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, claimed that they had entered the site in order to paint it after the fire there overnight Thursday.
The detainees told police that after they arrived at the shrine, Palestinian Authority Police officers confronted them and cocked their guns at them. The police officers also attacked them with clubs and sticks and hit them with the butts of their guns, they said.
Most of the group succeeded in escaping, but five were caught – three minors and two adults — and transferred to the IDF.
The worshipers were members of the Breslov sect of Hasidic Judaism, reports said.
“Israelis entering Area A are endangering their lives. We warned the public several times and do so again: There is a complete prohibition on entering the territory. The yeshiva students’ entrance to the site tonight was irresponsible and the incident could have ended in tragedy, especially in days as tense as these,” a police statement read, referring to a recent spate of attacks against Israelis and clashes in Israel and the West Bank.
The attorney and far-right activist Itamar Ben Gvir, who is representing the detainees, said it was “inconceivable that after the trauma they endured, police are still holding them when they need treatment.”
During Thursday night’s arson, there were no injuries, but the woman’s section at the site was badly damaged.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) October 18, 2015
Palestinian Authority security forces dispersed the crowd that had lit the fire and managed to douse the flames at the compound, believed to mark the burial site of the biblical patriarch Joseph. Israel Defense Forces troops arrived at the scene once the confrontation was over and the fire was out.
“The burning and desecration of Joseph’s Tomb last night is a blatant violation and contradiction of the basic value of freedom of worship. The IDF will take all measures to bring the perpetrators of this despicable act to justice, restore the site to its previous condition and ensure that the freedom of worship returns to Joseph’s Tomb,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement Friday morning.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the torching of the compound and in a statement published on the Wafa news agency, called the act “irresponsible” and said a committee was being formed to investigate.
The PA president “decided to immediately form an investigative commission to probe this irresponsible act committed this morning, and [to] repair the damage to the site caused by these deplorable actions,” AFP reported.
AFP contributed to this report.