Palestinians open fire at Israelis visiting Joseph's Tomb, two injured

Two men, from Jerusalem and Modi'in Ilit, were injured and taken to Beilinson Hospital and Sheba Medical Center for treatment.

A general view shows Joseph's Tomb (white dome) in the West Bank city of Nablus, October 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/AHMAD TALAT)
A general view shows Joseph's Tomb (white dome) in the West Bank city of Nablus, October 16, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AHMAD TALAT)

Gunmen shot at five Israelis traveling in a private car early Tuesday to pray at Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus, wounding two of them. It was the third such attack in two months.

The worshipers had not coordinated their entry into Nablus with the IDF, which rescued them from the scene and evacuated the wounded to a hospital.

One of the victims was from Jerusalem, and the other was from Modi’in Illit.

The three uninjured Israelis were questioned by police for breaking the law by entering Nablus, which is under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority. Unauthorized entry is forbidden to Israelis.

Palestinians torched the vehicle after its occupants abandoned it. Photos of the flaming car were widely shared on social media.

The car in which the five Israelis entered the Joseph's Tomb complex can be seen here, on fire, after it was abandoned during IDF rescue (Credit: Maariv).

The group had been stopped on the way to the tomb, a security source told KAN News. The men lied and told the police officers they were going to an observation post nearby and were allowed to continue on their way.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid condemned the attack but called on Israelis who want to pray at the tomb not to enter Nablus without a military escort. The army coordinates visits to the holy site once a month.

“The IDF and the security forces make great efforts to allow the worshipers to reach Joseph’s Tomb,” Lapid said. “An uncoordinated arrival endangers the worshipers and the security forces. I call on all citizens, for your safety, to abide by the regulations and be careful.”

Regarding Palestinians who might consider carrying out such an attack, he said, Israel would “continue to act without hesitation against terrorists who want to harm us, just as the IDF, Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] and IDF forces also acted this morning in Nablus.”

Lapid thanked the security forces for rescuing the worshipers and wished the two victims a speedy recovery.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan issued a similar message but went a step further in his rhetoric. He blamed the Palestinian Authority for the attack, saying it was an entity that “instigates and supports terrorism.”

Dagan urged the IDF to “catch the terrorists and eradicate the murderers’ dens in Nablus.”

The tomb should be restored to IDF control under an arrangement that had existed prior to the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, he said.

“Only the IDF’s full control of Joseph’s Tomb will enable [us to] maintain the safety of worshipers in Nablus,” Dagan said.

Right-wing MK: Lack of coordination with IDF does not matter

Religious Zionist Party MK Orit Struck said it did not matter that the five Israelis had not coordinated their visit with the IDF.

“We need to make it clear to the PA that the entry of people into Joseph’s Tomb has to be safe,” she said. “Otherwise, the IDF will go back to permanently guarding the area.”

Violence has increased in the area of the tomb this summer, with Palestinian gunmen attacking the tomb while worshipers were visiting the site during a regularly scheduled visit there under IDF protection in June.

Two Israeli civilians and one IDF commander were wounded in that attack.

In July, Palestinian gunmen shot at four worshipers who attempted to reach the tomb, causing their car to flip over. The worshipers were lightly wounded in the attack and were rescued by security forces.

In 2011, Israeli worshiper Ben Yoseph Livnat 25, who made a private visit to the tomb, was killed by Palestinian security forces who shot at his vehicle.