Israel troops clash with worshippers at West Bank site

AFP , Monday 30 May 2011

Israeli soldiers clashed overnight with Jewish worshippers who tried to enter a religious site in the northern West Bank city of Nablus without permission

The disturbances erupted when scores of religious Jews attempted to visit Joseph's Tomb without authorisation shortly after hundreds of others had travelled there on an army-escorted tour

"The army authorised 1,600 Israelis to go to pray at the tomb and this visit was carried out without any problems. But 200 other Israelis infiltrated Nablus without permission and 50 of them entered the tomb," the military spokeswoman told AFP on Monday.

"Clashes broke out when the soldiers tried to evacuate them by force. The army also received complaints from Palestinians, who said some of the worshippers damaged their property," the  spokeswoman added. She said the complaints would be investigated.

Public radio said Israeli border guards arrested three of the infiltrators, one of them a minor. Israelis are only allowed to visit Joseph's Tomb with permission from the military on organised, escorted tours coordinated in advance with Palestinian security forces. But religious Jews frequently seek to sneak into the site, which many believe to be the final resting place of the biblical Joseph.

On April 24th, one Israeli was killed and four injured when Palestinian police opened fire on a group of Jews who had entered the tomb without permission.

An Israeli military investigation into the shooting published on Sunday found it was not premeditated, but that the group of Israelis did not pose a significant enough threat to justify the Palestinian decision to open fire.

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