Nablus residents riot as Jewish pilgrims visit Joseph’s Tomb
Soldiers attacked with rocks, burning tires when escorting worshipers to patriarch’s reputed burial site; in Jerusalem, 5 Jewish visitors removed from Temple Mount
Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.
Palestinian residents of Nablus threw rocks and burning tires at IDF soldiers as they escorted hundreds of visitors to a Jewish holy site in the West Bank city overnight Wednesday-Thursday.
The IDF was providing protection for 26 buses of religious Jews who came to Nablus to see Joseph’s Tomb, the purported site of the Jewish patriarch’s burial. During the visit, the escorting force came under attack from local Palestinians, though no Israeli soldier was injured in the incident, the army said.
In response to the stones and burning tires, the troops fired back at the rioters with both “live bullets fired at the lower body” and tear gas canisters, the army said.
No injuries were reported among the rioters who took part in the violent demonstration.
Such visits are conducted in the middle of the night in order to minimize clashes with local residents, although that rarely works out as intended.
Earlier this month, another large group of Jewish pilgrims came under attack as they visited the site. A similar riot also broke out during a February visit.
The tomb is venerated by Jews, Christians and Muslims and has often been a flashpoint for sectarian violence. Jewish pilgrims are allowed to visit the site once a month under heavy army guard.
In October, the site was torched by Palestinian rioters in an incident condemned by Israeli leaders and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Following that incident, around 30 Israelis tried to access the site without prior coordination with the army, ostensibly to check the damage. Five members of the group were accosted by Palestinian security forces, who beat them before handing them over to Israel. Palestinians pulled the five from their cars and then torched one of the vehicles, reports said. The IDF extricated the remainder of the group.
Meanwhile overnight, in the Ramallah area, IDF troops arrested five alleged members of the Hamas terror organization. Two suspects were arrested in Beitunia, two in al-Tira and one in Beit Liqya, the army said in a statement.
In Jerusalem on Thursday, meanwhile, five Jewish visitors were removed by police from the Temple Mount for violating restrictions. In all, 674 visitors toured the Mount on Thursday, of whom 192 were Jews and the rest foreign tourists. Three of the five Jews ejected were minors, Army Radio said.