Palestine: new battle for Joseph’s Tomb

Israeli army and Border Guard forces detained some 40 settlers from the extremist “Hilltop Youth” and “Hebrew Cities” movements who entered the Balata refugee camp in Nablus late April 27, in an apparent effort to make an unauthorized visit to Joseph’s Tomb. The infiltrators, who clashed with the Israeli security forces, were accompanied by right-wing activist Baruch Marzel and MK Michael Ben-Ari. The situation has been escalating since April 24, when an Israeli settler was apparently shot dead and four others were injured by Palestinian police after a group of Jewish worshipers entered Nablus to visit Joseph’s Tomb without coordinating with either Palestinian or Israeli security. Nablus and Joseph’s Tomb are officially under full Palestinian control. The man killed in the incident is identified as Breslov Hasidic worshiper Ben-Yosef Livnat, 24. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the shooting as a “terrorist attack” and called on the Palestinian Authority “to take harsh steps against the perpetrators who committed this heinous act against Jewish worshipers who were on their way to prayer.” (YNet, Maan News Agency, JTA, April 28; YNet, April 24)

A surprise deal to end decades of rivalry between Fatah (which controls the Palestinian Authority) and Hamas (which has a de facto regime in Gaza) was welcomed by the Palestinian leadership, but denounced by Israel as crossing “a red line.” Under the agreement, announced in Cairo April 27, the two factions are to form a transitional government, with new elections to be held within a year. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called the pact “an essential and important step to proceed to the immediate establishment of national unity.” But in Gaza City, a spontaneous rally in support of the pact was violently dispersed by Hamas police April 28. The pact is scheduled to be signed next week in Cairo. (Middle East Online, Maan News Agency, Maan News Agency, April 28)

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  1. Settlers try to occupy Joseph’s Tomb
    Dozens of settlers entered Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus late May 2 under Israeli army protection and tied themselves up inside the shrine in order to resist removal when their alloted time there was over. The army however, was able to untie them and got them out, local residents said. But local Palestinians soon after clashed with the army and settlers, throwing rocks at them. The soldiers arrested two youth from Balata refugee camp.

    In the village of al-Lubban Al-Sharqiya, south of Nablus, soldiers set up a checkpoint on the road out, preventing Palestinians from entering or leaving. They detained a number of youth and checked their identity cards. (WAFA, May 3)