SALFIT (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of Israeli settlers, escorted by armed Israeli forces, raided the Palestinian village of Kifl Haris in the central occupied West Bank Salfit district, where they performed religious rituals throughout the day and into Thursday evening.
Kifl Haris resident Yousif Hamouda told Ma’an that hundreds of Israeli settlers escorted by Israeli forces entered the town in groups, visiting Islamic shrines in the area, claiming that they were Jewish religious sites.
According to Hamouda, Israeli settlers also set up a tent and portable toilet in the center of the village.
Israeli army forces installed checkpoints at the entrance of the town around noon, preventing Palestinian traffic from passing through the town in order to “maintain a suitable atmosphere for settlers,” Hamouda said.
An Israeli army spokesperson said that on Thursday night "some of the roads leading to the Kifl Haris village were closed in order to secure the area when entering the tomb of Joshua Bin Nun, which was planned ahead," adding that "the residents of the village have access to alternative and nearby roads for their movement."
The spokesperson added that once the visit was over in the early morning, the restrictions on movement for Palestinians were lifted.
Residents of Kifl Haris have been living under continuous tension due to Israeli settlers’ raids to a number of tombs exist in the village, which Palestinians in the area believe to be the graves of Muslim prophet Dhul Kifl, the Sufi saint Dhul Nun, and another shrine built by 12-century Sultan Saladin.
However, some Jews believe the tombs belong to the biblical figures Joshua, Caleb, and Nun.
Like many other Palestinian towns across the West Bank with religiously significant sites, Kifl Haris, situated on the main road connecting the illegal Ariel settlement to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, commonly experiences incursions by Israeli settlers accompanied by armed escorts.
Settlers who visit the tombs to pray often actively disrupt Palestinian residents and damage property.
Meanwhile, Palestinians are restricted from visiting holy sites in Israel without hard-to-obtain permits from Israeli authorities.