Palestinians set ablaze Joseph's tomb, a holy site for Jews, late on Saturday night, as friction continues to grow between a spate of recent terror attacks and IDF raids in the West Bank.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav told Israeli Army Radio that some 100 Palestinians marched toward the site, rioted and then torched the tomb before they were dispersed by Palestinian security forces. Images on social media showed parts of the tomb inside the shrine smashed and charred.
The incident drew condemnation from Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who said that Israel is taking action to capture the vandals and said: "We will not accept such an attack, in a holy place, on the eve of Passover, and we will get the rioters."
Defense Minister Benny Gantz denounced the incident in a tweet: “The vandalism of Joseph’s Tomb is a grave event and a serious violation of freedom of worship in one of the holiest places for every Jew.
Gantz said that Israel will repair the damages to the site as soon as possible, and added that he notified the Palestinian authority that security reinforcement is expected on its part as well.
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Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also slammed the "outrageous" incident: "Desecrating holy sites is a strike at the heart of the people ... It is an offense not only against the holy site, but against the deepest sensitivities of the Jewish people. We will bring the aggressors to justice and rehabilitate Joseph's tomb. I'm calling for everyone to maintain peace and calm."
Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus is a flash point prayer site. Some Jews believe the biblical Joseph is buried in the tomb, while Muslims say a sheikh is buried there. The army escorts Jewish worshipers to the site several times a year, in coordination with Palestinian security forces.
Following the incident, the heads of The Knesset Land of Israel Caucus MK Yoav Kish (Likud) and MK Orit Strock (Religious Zionism) announced that intend on taking an emergency tour of the site, and asked the Knesset officer to make the needed security arrangements.
The vandalism comes as Israeli forces continue to operate in Jenin and the surrounding area, home to two of the attackers who staged deadly attacks against Israelis in recent weeks.
A raid on the hometown of one of the assailants on Saturday sparked a gun battle in the occupied West Bank that left at least one Palestinian militant dead.