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2 Palestinians, 1 Israeli soldier injured during clashes near Joseph's Tomb

Feb. 23, 2017 10:12 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 23, 2017 4:20 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- An Israeli soldier and two Palestinians were injured during clashes in the Balata refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank on Thursday morning when hundreds of Israeli settlers performed religious rituals at Joseph’s Tomb under military protection.

Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that some 60 buses carrying an estimated 1,200 Israeli settlers escorted by soldiers arrived to Joseph’s Tomb at dawn, causing clashes to erupt between dozens of Palestinian youth and Israeli forces.

The local youth reportedly threw rocks and empty bottles at soldiers who fired live bullets, stun grenades and tear gas.

The sources added that Israeli forces detained three youths during the clashes, while two other Palestinians suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma’an that three Palestinians were detained for allegedly being in the possession of a firebomb and knife during the clashes.

Meanwhile, the army spokesperson said than an Israeli soldier was wounded by an explosive device during a raid in Balata and sustained moderate wounds, but that the soldier was involved in a separate military operation in Balata unrelated to the visit to Joseph's Tomb.

Joseph’s Tomb is located in Area A, the 18 percent of the West Bank officially under full PA control. However, Israeli forces regularly carry out military activities in Area A, in breach of the Oslo Accords.

Joseph's Tomb -- revered by Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans -- is the site of regular visits by Israelis, who are escorted by Israeli military forces to the area, often leading to clashes with local Palestinians.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Joseph's Tomb was to remain under Israeli control, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) took over the site after the Israeli army withdrew during the Second Intifada.

As part of security cooperation with the PA, the Israeli army allows Jewish worshipers to make monthly pilgrimages to the site.

However, ultra-Orthodox and nationalist Jews also regularly try to visit the shrine without approval, as many Jews believe the tomb to be the final resting place of the biblical figure in the Old Testament.

Palestinian security forces very rarely apprehend Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territory, as they do not have jurisdiction over Israeli citizens.

As a result, violations by Israeli settlers or soldiers against Palestinians often go unpunished, as Israeli authorities rarely prosecute Israeli citizens in such cases, or issue light sentences, which has been criticized by activists and rights groups as fostering a “culture of impunity.”
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