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Israeli settlers raid Palestinian village to pray at holy site, spark clashes

July 11, 2017 3:45 P.M. (Updated: July 11, 2017 3:45 P.M.)
SALFIT (Ma'an) -- Clashes broke out late Monday night between young Palestinian men and Israeli forces who stormed the village of Kifl Haris in central occupied West Bank district of Salfit to escort hundreds of Israeli settlers on a visit to pray at a Jewish holy site.

Local activist and lawyer Izzat Shaqour told Ma'an that Israeli troops closed all of the village's entrances and restricted the movement of residents. 

"Settlers often storm the village under the pretext of visiting Jewish shrines. They sing and shout until the early dawn hours, disturbing the residents." 

Residents of Kifl Haris have been living under continuous tension due to Israeli settler raids on a number of tombs in the village, which Palestinians in the area believe to be the graves of the 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.

Shaqour added that clashes broke out between local young men and the Israeli troops who escorted the settlers. The Israeli soldiers, he said, fired tear gas canisters and stun grenades at the protesters. 

The Israeli army said in a statement that Israeli forces organized the entry of "1,000 Jewish worshipers to visit the tomb of Joshua. Rocks were hurled at the forces who escorted the worshipers, and the forces responded with stun grenades. No injuries were reported."

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.

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