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Israeli settlers assault Palestinians, spark clashes near Joseph's Tomb

April 27, 2017 1:06 P.M. (Updated: April 27, 2017 4:41 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli settlers assaulted Palestinians in separate instances in the northern occupied West Bank on Thursday, including a Palestinian man who was taken to the hospital, while hundreds of Israeli settlers visited Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, sparking clashes with local Palestinians.

According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, Israelis near the illegal settlement of Shave Shomron in the West Bank’s Nablus district stopped the car of Ali Qabaha, a resident of the village of Yaabad in Jenin, while he was driving near the settlement.

Qabaha was admitted to the hospital after the settlers beat him up and damaged his car, Wafa reported.

An Israeli border police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Israeli settlers traveled to Joseph’s Tomb near the Balata refugee camp in the eastern part of Nablus City after midnight, under the protection of the Israeli army.

Sources told Ma’an that more than 10 buses carrying Israeli settlers arrived to Joseph’s Tomb, where they performed religious rituals until early Thursday morning.

Locals said that clashes had erupted between Israeli forces and dozens of Palestinians youths around the area. Wafa reported that the soldiers used tear gas and stun grenades on the crowd of Palestinians. No injuries were reported.

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 sparking 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.

Meanwhile, in the district of Jenin, Israeli settlers reportedly threw rocks and bottles at Palestinian homes located near what Wafa called an “evicted (Israeli) settlement,” without naming it.

Local sources told Wafa that while Israeli soldiers had been present in the area during the incident, they did not intervene to prevent or stop the attacks.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on the incidents.

Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with announcements of further settlement expansion sparking condemnation from the international community.

A report released in December by human rights group B'Tselem highlighted the “key role” of Israeli settlers in further isolating Palestinians from their lands, either through the establishment of outposts officially unrecognized by the Israeli government, or through the regular use of violence or threats of violence against Palestinians.

The movement of Israeli settlers taking over Palestinian land, and further displacing the local Palestinian population has been a "stable" Israeli policy since the takeover of the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967, B'Tselem reported.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 107 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2016.
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