Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus (AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian Authority (PA) police officer was sentenced to six years in prison by an Israeli military court on Tuesday for his involvement in an incident in which an Israeli settler was shot and killed in the northern occupied West Bank in 2011.
According to Israeli media
, while Nawaf Fad was acquitted of murder charges, he was found guilty of “obstruction of justice for having tampered with evidence by rearranging stones and backpacks scattered at the scene of the shooting.”
After the incident, Palestinian authorities arrested four of the police officers suspected of being involved in the 2011 incident, which left 24-year-old Israeli Ben-Yosef Livnat, nephew of former Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, killed and four others injured when Israeli settlers entered the area around Joseph’s Tomb in the Nablus district without coordinating between Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
Nablus Governor Jibrin al-Bakri gave an account at the time of the incident
following a police investigation, saying that five cars carrying 30 settlers from Jerusalem entered Joseph's Tomb around dawn without coordinating with Palestinian or Israeli officials, and "threw stones and carried out provocative acts against Palestinians."
When Palestinian police was 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, after which the settlers fled the scene.
"It was only after the cars left that were were informed by Israel that one had been killed and others injured," the official said.
Typically Israeli settlers are only permitted to enter the area following coordination between Israel and the PA, while the area of the tomb is blocked off for local Palestinians during the visits.
“In an inconceivable manner, the verdict acquitted Ben-Yosef’s murderer. The court showed incredible empathy towards the assassin. The family was shocked to hear the verdict, which contains a series of serious and inexplicable mistakes,” Livnat's aunt Limor reportedly said following the verdict.
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.