Dozens of Jews Illegally Enter West Bank Shrine Torched by Palestinians

by The Associated Press /  / Updated 

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JERUSALEM — The Israeli military removed dozens of Jewish worshipers Sunday who clashed with Palestinians after illegally entering a biblical shrine in the West Bank that was recently torched by Palestinians.

The military said some 30 Jews descended upon the Joseph's Tomb compound in Nablus, a site revered by Jews as the tomb of the biblical figure Joseph.

The area is under full Palestinian control but Jewish prayer is permitted there when coordinated with authorities. The military said Sunday's visit was not, and the worshippers had no permit.

Image: Palestinian youth stand next to a burning car belonging to an Israeli settler
Youth stand next to a burning car belonging to an Israeli settler that was set on fire by Palestinians as it entered the northern West Bank city of Nablus early on Sunday.JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP - Getty Images

When they arrived they were confronted by Palestinians and a violent clash ensued. In consultation with Palestinian security forces, the military extracted the worshippers. One of them was lightly wounded and five were taken for police questioning.

On Friday, Palestinian assailants firebombed the West Bank compound, the first assault on a religious site. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said extremists were trying to turn the current conflict into a religious one.

Related: Fear and Violence Grip Jerusalem, West Bank

Sunday's incident comes after another bloody day in which Palestinian assailants carried out five stabbing attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as a month-long outburst of violence showed no signs of abating. Over the past month, eight Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings.

In that time, 40 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, including 19 labeled by Israel as attackers, and the rest in clashes with Israeli troops. The daily attacks have caused a sense of panic across Israel and raised fears that the region is on the cusp of a new round of heavy violence.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he will meet this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Germany and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the Mideast in an effort to ease the flaring tensions.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Israel Saturday for what he said was a solidarity mission at a “painful moment” for the country. “It's a moment when I am certainly here in solidarity with the people of Israel," de Blasio said during a visit to an Israeli-Palestinian school. "This has to stop obviously. Look, these are attacks on civilians.”

The mayor also met with Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and his Tel Aviv counterpart, Ron Huldai, Saturday and on Sunday visited the Western Wall. He is not scheduled to meet with any Palestinian leaders, according to NBC New York.

Israel has taken unprecedented steps in response to the attacks. It has deployed soldiers in Israeli cities and erected concrete barriers outside some Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, where most of the attackers have come from. Ordinary citizens have also increasingly taken up arms to protect themselves.

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