Israeli Killed, Three Wounded in Shooting at West Bank Holy Site

Nephew of Culture Minister Livnat dies after Palestinian security officer openfire on cluster of vehicles leaving Joseph's Tomb in Nablus after unauthorized visit; IDF stresses that pilgrims are given monthly opportunity to pray at site with permission and proper security.

One Israeli was killed and three others were wounded Sunday morning when a Palestinian security officer opened fire on their car as they were leaving the holy site of Joseph's Tomb near the West Bank city of Nablus earlier in the day.

The four were part of a group of about 15 worshipers who entered the site in three separate cars without military authorization. A Palestinian Authority representative said that the officer fired into the air because he believed that the group was acting suspiciously, but did not aim at the car.

IDF forces and rescue services evacuate casualties after shooting near West Bank.
Nir Keidar

"The main problem is that they [the Israelis] entered the city without coordination," said Jibril al-Bakri, the Palestinian governor of Nablus.

 Ben-Joseph Livnat, a 25-year-old resident of the Elon Moreh settlement and father of four, succumbed to his wounds after being taken to a nearby Israel Defense Forces base, the military and rescue services said. Livnat was the son of Noam Livnat, a well-known figure in the settlement community, and also the nephew of Science and Culture Minister Limor Livnat,

Two other victims, aged approximately 20 and 17, reached an Israeli settlement outside Nablus after the shooting and were rushed to the hospital by Israeli forces with moderate to serious bullet wounds. A third casualty sustained light wounds, said medical services.

The tomb, which some believe to be the final resting place of the Biblical patriarch Joseph, is located in an area of the West Bank under full Palestinian control.

Hours after the incident, dozens of Palestinians rioted near Joseph's Tomb, and burned tires, Israel Radio reported.

It was attacked and ransacked by Palestinians at the start of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and one of the Israeli policemen stationed there was killed.

After 2003, Jews were allowed intermittent access, which was expanded in 2009 to one coordinated monthly midnight visit.

Despite military warnings, flocks of Bratslav Hasidim and other religious pilgrims routinely enter the compound to pray without permission, often late at night. Shots have been fired in the past at such groups entering without authorization.

Security forces have tried to crack down on the unauthorized pilgrimages and have in the past arrested trespassers, though every detainee has been released within hours without significant penalty.

A military spokesman on Sunday stressed that the army coordinated a monthly pilgrimage to the site for hundreds of worshipers, to give them authorized and secure access to the site. One such visit was held just two weeks ago, said the spokesman.