Palestinian teen killed as gunmen attack MKs’ pilgrimage to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus

Member of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades apparently killed by homemade bomb exploding prematurely; military arrests 12 terror suspects in overnight West Bank raids

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank city of Nablus, early November 9, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops operate in the West Bank city of Nablus, early November 9, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Palestinian gunmen opened fire toward Jewish worshipers, including current and future lawmakers, visiting Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus in the early hours of Wednesday.

Israeli troops returned fire at the gunmen, according to the military and Palestinian reports.

A Palestinian teenager was killed amid the clash, apparently due to an explosive device he was holding exploding prematurely.

According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, 15-year-old Mahdi Hashash died after being seriously injured by shrapnel across his body, and not by gunfire.

The Israel Defense Forces said troops had opened fire at the teen while he was placing an explosive device in the area.

Hashash was claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades terror group, which is loosely tied to the Fatah party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, as a member.

A group of armed Palestinians in the nearby Balata refugee camp had issued a threat on social media on Tuesday, warning its members would attack any entry of Israelis to the tomb area.

Joseph’s Tomb is located inside Area A of the West Bank, which is officially under complete PA control, though the Israeli military conducts activities there. The IDF bars Israeli citizens from entering Area A without prior authorization.

Palestinian gunmen from the so-called Balata brigade rally in the refugee camp of Balata near the West Bank city of Nablus, on November 4, 2022. (Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

Joseph’s Tomb is revered by some as the final resting place of the biblical Joseph. Visits to Joseph’s Tomb by Orthodox Israelis take place on a monthly basis, if not more frequently, and 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.

Eight current and incoming lawmakers participated in Wednesday’s visit, including Likud MKs Idit Silman, Boaz Bismuth, Amichai Chickli and Nissim Vatouri; Shas MK Yoni Mashriki; Otzma Yehudit MKs Almog Cohen and Limor Son Har Melech; and Religious Zionism MK Ohad Tal.

Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, who also participated in the visit, said he expects the new government, expected to be the most right-wing ever, to “stop the persecution against settlers” and settlement construction in the West Bank.

The IDF said a military drone crashed in Nablus during the escort of worshipers to the tomb. No sensitive information was lost due to the crash and there was no risk of intelligence being taken from the device, the army said.

The IDF meanwhile has pressed on with an anti-terror offensive in the West Bank.

In arrests raids across the West Bank early Wednesday, troops detained 12 wanted Palestinians, and seized several firearms.

During the arrest of a terror suspect in the village of Nabi Saleh, the IDF said troops fired at Palestinians hurling stones and cinder blocks at them. The PA Health Ministry said one person was injured.

Weapons seized by Israeli troops during raids in the West Bank, early November 9, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF’s operation has made more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 125 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

The anti-terror offensive in the West Bank was launched following a series of Palestinian attacks that killed 19 people in the spring of this year.

An Israeli man was killed in an attack in Hebron last month, a woman was killed in Holon in a suspected attack in September, and four soldiers have been killed in the West Bank in attacks and during the arrest operations.

On Tuesday, a man died from wounds he sustained in a stabbing attack in a Palestinian village in October.

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