Hundreds of Jewish settlers storm West Bank shrine
Known by Jews as ‘Joseph's Tomb’, site in Nablus has long been flashpoint for violence
By Anees Bargouthi
Hundreds of extremist Jewish settlers -- backed by Israeli army troops -- forced their way into a religious shrine in the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday, triggering clashes with local Palestinians.
"At least 14 buses carrying about 700 Jewish settlers forced their way into the site, where they performed Talmudic rituals," Ahmed Shamekh, an official at the nearby Balata refugee camp, told Anadolu Agency.
The settlers, he said, were supported by scores of Israeli soldiers and military vehicles.
According to Shamekh, dozens of Palestinian youths had gathered at the site to protest the settlers’ arrival, but were dispersed by Israeli soldiers firing teargas, rubber bullets and heavy ammunition.
One Palestinian protester was injured in the leg by a rubber bullet, while dozens of others suffered teargas inhalation, according to local medical sources.
The site, which Jews refer to as "Joseph's Tomb", has long been a flashpoint for violence.
Jews believe the site to be the burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph. Muslims, however, challenge this assertion, saying an Islamic cleric -- Sheikh Yussef Dawiqat -- was buried at the site two centuries ago.
In a related development, the Israeli army detained dozens of Palestinians across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, a Palestinian NGO reported Thursday.
"The Israeli army detained 12 Palestinians after raiding their homes in the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Al-Khahil [Hebron] and Salfit," the Palestinian Prisoners Society said in a statement.
"Another 11 Palestinians were detained after Israeli forces stormed East Jerusalem's Shufat refugee camp," the NGO added.
The Israeli army frequently carries out sweeping arrest campaigns in the occupied territories that ostensibly target Palestinians who are "wanted" by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Over 7,000 Palestinians are currently languishing in prisons throughout the Jewish state, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs.
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