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Israeli settler shot dead, 4 injured in Nablus

April 24, 2011 8:58 A.M. (Updated: April 25, 2011 9:33 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- An Israeli settler was shot dead and four others were injured early Sunday after a group of Jewish worshippers snuck into Nablus without coordinating with Palestinian or Israeli security, officials said.

Settler sources named the man killed in the incident as Jerusalem resident Ben-Yosef Livnat, a 24-year-old father of four who is the nephew of hawkish culture minister Limor Livnat, and was born in the Nablus-area settlement Elon Moreh.

Nablus governor Jibrin Al-Bakri gave an account of the incident following a police investigation, saying that at 5:45 a.m., five cars carrynig 30 settlers from Jerusalem entered Joseph's Tomb, then split off into two groups.

"They threw stones and carried out provocative acts against Palestinians," A-Bakri told Ma'an.

When police were made aware of the incidents, officers were deployed to the area and set up a checkpoint near the road, firing into the air in an attempt to disperse the group of settlers, he said.

Israeli security officials speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that an initial investigation showed the men had tried to bypass a Palestinian patrol in a parked jeep, prompting the police to fire first in the air and then open fire on their vehicles.

When the shots were fired, Al-Bakri continued, settlers returned to their cars rapidly, driving into the plastic barrier set up on the road, fleeing the scene.

"It was only after the cars left that were were informed by Israel that one had been killed and five others injured," the official said.

Israel's Magen David Adom medical service said shots were fired at three vehicles, which evacuated to the nearby settlement of Har Bracha.

"After attempts at reviving him, a man of around 30 years was declared dead. A young man of 20 was seriously injured and a youth of around 17 was moderately wounded. Two others were lightly wounded," the medical service said.

According to Al-Bakri, "The Palestinian Authority has formed an investigating committee headed by Palestinian military intelligence and security department officials," noting that field investigations had begun and that guards at the scene had been detained for questioning.

Palestinian officers told Ma'an earlier that settlers had pulled their weapons and pointed them at the PA security, which had informed the settler group that they were not permitted to be in the area without an Israeli military guard.

Both Palestinian security and Israel's military confirmed no coordination attempts had been made for an escort for the settler group.

Security forces first fired warning shots into the air, according to Palestinian officials, while a statement from Israel's army said Palestinian officials said shots were fired "after identifying suspicious movements."

Yaakov David Ha'ivri, a settler leader in the northern West Bank, said the ncident put "a great question mark over the ability of the Palestinian Authority to protect the security of Jewish worshipers," he said. "It could encourage the Israeli side to take more responsibility."

Visits to the tomb, in the Nablus-area town of Balatta, have in the past years been conducted at night. Israeli forces enter the area and impose a military curfew, preventing civilians from leaving their homes from the hours of midnight to dawn.

Palestinian police operating in the area during a Israeli military operation are told to evacuate.

Palestinian Authority security services spokesman Adnan Dmeiri told Ma'an that officers on duty at the site had been summoned to give testimonies as witnesses to the incident, but said none had been detained.

Dmeiri said a committee had been formed to investigate the shooting but said it would not include Israeli officials. He denied media reports that the investigation would be under US supervision.

Mixed reactions

"This was an abnormal event which does not characterize the nature of the relationship," an Israeli military official told Ynet, a news site based in Tel Aviv. "It is possible that the group's failure to coordinate the visit caused a misunderstanding," the official said.

The governor of Nablus, Jibril Al-Bakri, added that the shooting was unintentional and said it was still being investigated.

The army said its senior officials were expected to meet with Palestinian security officers Sunday to examine the incident.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement denounced "an odious crime against Jewish faithful at prayer," and demanded that the Palestinian Authority (PA) "take severe measures" against those behind the attack.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement "strongly condemning" the incident and calling on the army and Palestinian Authority to investigate.

"No breakdown in coordination can justify an event of this nature and firing at innocent people," he said.

Following the incident, Israeli forces closed the Beit Furik checkpoint east of Nablus and intensified inspections at Za'tara and Huwwara checkpoints in the area.

Clashes erupted around Joseph's Tomb as Israeli forces launched tear gas at young Palestinians protesting in the area.

After Israeli forces withdrew, Palestinians set fire to the site.

AFP contributed to this report

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