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20 Israelis arrested for trying to enter Joseph's Tomb in Nablus

June 25, 2017 11:45 A.M. (Updated: June 25, 2017 6:57 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces arrested at least 20 right-wing Israelis for trying to illegally enter Joseph's Tomb in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus before dawn Sunday morning.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri wrote in a statement that the group of Jewish Israelis, which included at ten minors, were arrested at the entrance to Nablus while they were on the way to Joseph's Tomb without prior coordination with Israeli forces to enter Area A -- the 18 percent of the occupied West Bank under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Al-Samri added that the suspects were set to appear at an Israeli magistrate's court in Petah Tikva later on Sunday.

She reported later Sunday evening that the court decided to release the suspects on bail and banned them from the occupied West Bank for 15 days. 

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

As part of security coordination with the PA, the Israeli army allows Jewish worshipers to make monthly pilgrimages to the site -- revered by Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans -- under armed Israeli military escort, often sparking clashes with local Palestinians.

Last month, a coordinated visit by some 4,000 right-wing Israelis -- accompanied by US governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee -- were escorted to the site under heavy military protection to the site, sparking clashes that saw at least two Palestinians detained an several others suffer from tear gas inhalation.

Like many other Palestinian towns across the West Bank with religiously significant sites, Nablus commonly experiences incursions by Israeli settlers -- who reside in the occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law -- accompanied by armed escorts, resulting in severe restrictions on freedom of movement for local Palestinians.

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.

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