ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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Palestinian teen killed in clashes with IDF during pilgrimage to Joseph’s Tomb

Two others seriously hurt in Nablus, according to PA; Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai among hundreds of visitors to the site

A screenshot of explosions in Nablus as Palestinians clash with IDF troops as they accompany Jewish worshippers to Joseph's Tomb, July 20, 2023. (Screenshot/Twitter, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A screenshot of explosions in Nablus as Palestinians clash with IDF troops as they accompany Jewish worshippers to Joseph's Tomb, July 20, 2023. (Screenshot/Twitter, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A Palestinian teenager was killed and dozens of others were injured in clashes with Israeli troops early Thursday as Jewish worshipers entered the religious site of Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian health officials said.

The young Palestinian man was identified as 19-year-old Bader al-Masri by the Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa.

The Israeli security forces were accompanying hundreds of Jewish worshippers to the site early Thursday, among them Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and other top police officials who arrived for a special visit ahead of Tisha B’Av, a fast day that begins next Wednesday and will last through Thursday evening, mourning the destruction of the two temples in 586 BCE and 70 CE, respectively.

Police said Commissioner Shabtai had met earlier with the family of Moshe Klinerman, a teen missing since March 2022, and accompanied them to Joseph’s Tomb.

The police leadership was also accompanied by the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, and the chief of staff for far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Chanmael Dorfman.

The Israel Defense Forces said armed Palestinians opened fire, hurled explosive devices, and blocked roads with burning tires as the security forces and the worshipers approached the site.

The IDF said troops responded with live fire and riot dispersal means, adding that several suspects were hit.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, in the West Bank, July 20, 2023. (Samaria Regional Council)

Wafa reported that al-Masri was critically injured in the clashes and was taken to hospital, where he later died of his wounds.

The PA Health Ministry said three others were wounded as a result of gunfire, including two who were listed in serious condition. The Palestinian Red Crescent told Wafa that at least 30 were treated for tear gas inhalation, including a 12-day-old baby.

Footage circulating on social media showed Palestinians hurling firebombs at IDF armored bulldozer that was placing dirt mounds in the area to block off traffic ahead of the pilgrimage. Large explosions followed.

Orthodox Israelis visit Joseph Tomb’s 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.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high across the West Bank for the past year and a half, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

On Thursday morning, the IDF said troops detained four wanted Palestinians during overnight raids. Another suspect was detained in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, and was later found to have been carrying a knife, the IDF said.

Since the beginning of this year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 25 people.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 153 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that time — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.

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