Palestinians clash with IDF during pilgrimage to Joseph’s Tomb; 7 arrested overnight

Military escorts Jewish worshipers to site in Nablus as rioters hurl explosives, firebombs and gunmen open fire

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

Palestinians burn tires and block streets leading to Joseph's Tomb, in the West Bank city of Nablus, January 17, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Palestinians burn tires and block streets leading to Joseph's Tomb, in the West Bank city of Nablus, January 17, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Several Palestinians were reported wounded during clashes with Israeli troops late Tuesday and early Wednesday as Jewish worshipers entered the religious site of Joseph’s Tomb, in the West Bank city of Nablus.

The Israel Defense Forces said Palestinians hurled explosives, Molotov cocktails, and stones at troops as they escorted the pilgrims to the site. Troops responded with riot dispersal means, the IDF said.

“Also, the soldiers fired at gunmen who fired at them,” the military added.

The Nablus-based Lion’s Den terror group said in a statement that its members were involved in opening fire at the Israeli troops.

Footage showed Palestinians hurling firebombs at an IDF armored bulldozer that was placing dirt mounds in the area to block off traffic ahead of the pilgrimage. Another clip showed a gunman firing a single shot toward the Israeli troops.

The official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA said several Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, mostly from tear gas deployed by soldiers.

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.

No soldiers or civilians were hurt in the overnight clashes.

The entry to Nablus came during an Israeli anti-terror offensive, mostly focused on the northern West Bank, to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that killed 31 people in 2022.

In the West Bank overnight, IDF troops arrested seven Palestinians wanted for suspected involvement in rioting and terror activities, and took them in for questioning.

During a raid in the northern West Bank village of ’Arrana, troops and police officers seized several firearms, officials said.

Weapons seized by IDF troops and police officers in the West Bank village of ’Arrana, Janauary 18, 2023. (Israel Police)

The IDF’s operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids.

It also left more than 170 Palestinians dead in 2022, and another 15 since the beginning of the year, many of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians

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