One Israeli worshiper was killed and four were wounded in Nablus early Sunday morning after their vehicle was shot at by a Palestinian Authority policeman as the group was exiting the city from prayer services held at Joseph's Tomb. Magen David Adom said one person was in serious condition, one in moderate condition and two others in light condition. The four were detained by police for obstructing the investigation and refusing to tell authorities their version of events. Police have requested the Haifa Magistrate's Court extend the remand of three of the injured.
According to an IDF initial investigation, three vehicles containing Braslev worshipers entered the tomb in violation of a decree by the IDF's Central Command prohibiting entry of Israelis into Area A without prior coordination. A verbal confrontation ensued between the worshipers and the Palestinian policemen, who called on them to leave the area. The Breslev vehicles failed to stop at a checkpoint outside of the religious site, the investigation found. The policemen then fired shots in the air. The worshipers tried to flee the area, and their vehicles came under fire, killing Ben Yosef Livnat, 24, father of four, and wounding four others.
Following its own initial investigation, The IDF believes the PA policemen were fully aware that the men they fired on were Israeli worshipers who were unarmed and posed no threat despite entering the area without proper security coordination.
The Palestinian police officer who opened fire told investigators in the Palestinian security forces that he identified "suspicious" individuals and fired at them, the IDF said. The shooting took place in an area of Palestinian Authority security jurisdiction. The PA policeman was being interrogated by Palestinian security officers. Several hours after the incident, dozens of Palestinians rioted near Joseph's Tomb and set tires on fire, Israel Radio reported. Settlers claimed that Palestinians vandalized the holy site in the wake of the attack.
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According to Nablus Governor Jibreen al Bakri, the shooting attack was a "security incident" and not a terror attack. Bakri said the group of Breslev hassidim raised suspicions since they entered the city without prior coordination with the proper authorities. At first shots were fired in the air as a warning and then at the vehicle, he said. Bakri said the incident was being investigated and refused to say if the shooters were Palestinian Authority police. He added that the authorities who were in the area were detained and were interrogated about the details of the incident.
The worshipers were able to evacuate themselves to the IDF Samaria district brigade base and the Har Bracha settlement which were near by and received initial emergency medical care.
The death of a 24-year-old male was pronounced at the scene. The victim was identified as Ben Yosef Livnat, the nephew of Minister of Culture and Sports Limor Livnat (Likud). Livnat was married, a father of four and was a resident of Jerusalem. A 20-year-old man was injured in serious condition, suffering of an abdominal wound. He was airlifted to Bellinson Hospital in Petah Tikva where he underwent surgery. A 17-year-old youth was evacuated by a Magen David Adom Yarkon crew in moderate condition, suffering a wound to his shoulder. Another two individuals were injured in light condition. They did not require evacuation and received medical treatment on location.
The funeral procession for Livnat was scheduled to leave the Elon Moreh settlement at 11 a.m. and head in the direction of Jerusalem. He will be laid to rest at the Mount of Olives cemetery.
Senior IDF officials were expected to hold a meeting with Palestinian officials later Sunday to clarify details of the incident.
When asked about the possibility that Palestinian police shot at the car, Gershon Mesika, head of the Samaria regional council, told Army Radio that Breslov hassids attempt to illegally enter Joseph's Tomb almost every month. He added that Palestinian Police are familiar with the regular occurrence, and would have no reason to shoot at visitors.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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