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Clashes erupt as 1,200 Israelis pray at Joseph's Tomb near Nablus

Oct. 10, 2016 3:24 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 10, 2016 3:24 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- More than a thousand Israelis escorted by Israeli forces visited Joseph’s Tomb in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus on Sunday night, sparking clashes with local Palestinian youth.

Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli settlers from different settlements across the West Bank traveled in 24 buses and arrived to the religious site near the Balata refugee camp, where they performed religious rituals until dawn.

Clashes broke out in the area, with Israeli soldiers reportedly firing tear gas and sound bombs, and Palestinian youth throwing rocks and empty bottles.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces escorted 1,200 Israelis to Joseph’s Tomb when “violent riots” erupted, with dozens of Palestinians throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

She added that Israeli forces used “riot dispersal means,” including rubber-coated steel bullets.

No injuries were reported on either side.

The visit by Israelis comes during the Jewish high holidays, a day before the holiday of Yom Kippur.

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 leading to 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.

However, ultra-Orthodox and nationalist Jews also regularly try to visit the shrine without approval, as many Jews believe the tomb to be the final resting place of the biblical figure in the Old Testament.

Palestinians believe that Joseph's Tomb is the funerary monument to Sheikh Yousef Dweikat, a local religious figure.
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