Palestinians attack biblical figure Joseph's tomb in West Bank

  • Published
Damaged tomb of Joseph (09/04/22)Image source, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Image caption,
The tomb is believed to be the burial place of Joseph, the revered figure from the Bible

The tomb where the biblical figure Joseph is said to be buried has been vandalised by Palestinians amid spiralling tensions with Israel.

The site in Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, was attacked in what Israel's prime minister called a "frenzy of destruction".

There has been a spate of Israeli and Palestinian deaths in recent days, including deadly attacks which have caused shock across Israel.

Israel has promised a strong response.

The tomb was vandalised on Saturday night as Israeli forces carried out raids in the West Bank in the wake of a gun attack on a bar in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian on Thursday, which left three Israelis dead and 11 others injured.

Video on social media showed Palestinians striking a large light fitting hanging above the tomb and throwing chunks of rubble. Pictures from the Israeli foreign ministry showed what appeared to be fire damage to the tomb and damage to the stone lid. Fires were also started in adjacent rooms.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Brig Gen Ran Kochav told Army Radio that the perpetrators were detained by Palestinian security forces, Israel Hayom news site reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Palestinian rioters had "simply vandalised a holy place for us, the Jews" and vowed to catch them.

It comes at a particularly sensitive time, days before the Jewish festival of Passover. The festival marks the exodus of the Jews from ancient Egypt, where according to Jewish tradition Joseph had risen from prisoner to viceroy some generations earlier.

The tomb is revered by Jews, who believe Joseph is buried there. Muslims believe it to be the resting place of either Joseph or an 18th Century Islamic cleric named Sheikh Yousef Dawiqat. It has previously been a flashpoint for violence, having been set alight by Palestinian rioters in 2015 and 2000.

Nablus is under Palestinian security control, so Jewish pilgrims are usually only allowed to visit the tomb in co-ordination with the IDF. On Monday morning, two ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, who had reportedly not obtained permission, were shot and wounded while trying to get there. It is not clear who fired the shots.

The attack on the holy site comes amid heightened tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, with mounting deaths on both sides.

A 17-year-old Palestinian wounded in an Israeli operation in the West Bank city of Jenin on Sunday died on Monday, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said. On Saturday, Israel said its forces killed a Palestinian gunman in the same city, home to the attacker who killed three Israelis at the bar in Tel Aviv.

Also on Sunday, two Palestinian women - one of whom was found to be unarmed; the other who stabbed an Israeli policeman - were shot dead in separate incidents in the West Bank. Meanwhile, an Israeli Jewish man was shot dead in Israel after trying to grab a soldier's gun. Police later said he had mental health problems.

A wave of attacks by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in Israel in the past three weeks has left 12 Israelis and two Ukrainians dead. It has been one of the bloodiest periods of its kind for years, putting the country on edge.