Israeli Army Kills Two Palestinians in Clashes at West Bank Holy Site

Confrontations at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus sparked when Jewish worshipers entered holy site to pray ■ IDF says men were shot after hurling explosive devices at troops

FILE Photo: Israeli soldiers and worshipers at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, 2011.
Nir Kafri

Two Palestinians were killed by Israel Defense Forces troops after hurling explosive devices toward soldiers who were safeguarding Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus, the Israeli military said Wednesday morning.

According to the Israeli army, the two men threw the devices out of a vehicle they drove. In response, soldiers opened fire and hit the Palestinans' car. There were no Israeli casualties in the incident.

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The two Palestinians have been identified as Ra'id Hamdan, 21, and Ziyad Nuri, 20.

Palestinians have declared a mourning strike in the Nablus area following the event, also citing the death of Omar Amin Abu Lila in a shootout with Israeli forces. Abu Lila is the suspected assailant in Sunday's shooting and stabbing attack that killed soldier Gal Keidan, 19, and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, 47. 

The Israel Defense Forces released a statement in response to the incident: "A number of explosives were hurled from a vehicle at Israeli army forces that were securing the entrance of worshipers at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus."

"Israeli army forces responded with live fire toward the vehicle. At the same time, military engineering tools struck the vehicle. As a result, two attackers were killed," the IDF said. 

Palestinian reports said the exchange came in the wake of clashes that were ignited when Jewish worshipers entered the holy site to pray. The reports said the confrontations then spilled over into the city's eastern neighborhoods.

This is not the first time Joseph's Tomb is at the center of violent clashes. The holy site is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and Jewish worshipers require the PA's approval to enter the compound. Once inside, they are normally accompanied by Israeli soldiers as a security measure. 

In the past, unauthorized Jewish visitors were arrested by Palestinian police and extricated by Israeli soldiers. In 2015, Palestinians set fire to the holy site.

In 2011, Palestinian security forces opened fire on three cars full of Israelis who entered the compound illegally, killing 25-year-old Ben-Joseph Livnat.