Hundreds of Jewish settlers forced their way into a shrine in the West Bank city of Nablus in the early hours of this morning, triggering clashes with Palestinian youths, according to eyewitnesses.
Roughly 2,200 Jewish settlers – backed by dozens of Israeli soldiers – entered “Joseph’s Tomb”, a holy site venerated by both Muslims and Jews, Ahmed Shamekh, a Palestinian official at the nearby Balata refugee camp, told the Anadolu Agency.
Dozens of Palestinians gathered to protest the move, pelting the intruders with stones, said Shamekh, while Israeli troops responded with rubber bullets and teargas.
Joseph’s Tomb has long been a flashpoint for violence between Muslim worshipers and extremist Jewish settlers.
Jews believe the site represents the burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph. Muslims, however, challenge this claim, saying an Islamic cleric – Sheikh Yussef Dawiqat – was buried at the site two centuries ago.
Since early last week, tensions have been running high in the occupied territories – especially at East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, where for three days in a row Israeli police used rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas to disperse Muslim worshippers.
According to Al-Aqsa’s Palestinian administrators, at least 600 Israeli troops – along with some 1,500 Jewish settlers – forced their way into the mosque complex last week.