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Two Israeli soldiers lightly hurt in clashes near West Bank shrine

Buses taking some 500 Jewish worshipers to pray at Joseph’s Tomb attacked by Palestinians with gunfire, rocks and explosives; troops return fire

A Border Police vehicle damaged in clashes outside the West Bank city of Nablus while escorting Jewish pilgrims early on September 27, 2021 (Israel Police)
A Border Police vehicle damaged in clashes outside the West Bank city of Nablus while escorting Jewish pilgrims early on September 27, 2021 (Israel Police)

Two Israeli soldiers were lightly hurt during clashes with Palestinians near Joseph’s Tomb in the northern West Bank early Monday, the Israel Police said.

The troops were part of a Military Police force guarding a group of some 500 Jewish worshipers who went to the site, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Palestinians attacked the convoy of busses going to the shrine with live fire, stones and homemade explosive devices, police said in a statement.

Soldiers returned fire, the statement said.

There were no immediate details on Palestinian casualties.

One officer was hit by shrapnel from an explosive device, while the second was hit in the face with a stone. Both were lightly wounded.

The clashes come a day after Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in a series of raids across the West Bank. Two Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded, apparently in a friendly fire incident.

The raids targeted alleged members of a Hamas cell who were planning a major terror attack reminiscent of the Second Intifada, officials told Hebrew-language television networks.

It was not clear if the clashes at the tomb were a reaction to the raids. The shrine has in itself been a frequent flashpoint.

Near-monthly visits by Israelis to Joseph’s Tomb are permitted by the Israel Defense Forces and are carried out under heavily armed guard.

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

The site is venerated by Jews, Christians and Muslims, and has often been a flashpoint for sectarian violence. During the visits by Jewish pilgrims, Palestinians routinely throw rocks at the troops, and sometimes attack them with Molotov cocktails and gunfire.

In 2015 a large group of Palestinians set fire to the compound containing Joseph’s Tomb. Palestinian Authority security forces dispersed the hundred-strong crowd and managed to douse the fire at the tomb, which tradition says contains the remains of the biblical patriarch Joseph.

There have been other incidents of arson and vandalism at the site, including major damage by Palestinian rioters in 2000.

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