Palestinian Arab assailants on Monday morning used live gunfire, homemade explosive devices and stones to attack a convoy of buses transporting Orthodox Jews to pray at the tomb of the biblical patriarch Joseph.
Joseph’s Tomb is located on the outskirts of the Palestinian-controlled town of Nablus (biblical Shechem), and Jews wishing to visit the holy site require a military escort.
The troops accompanying the Jewish worshippers on Monday morning returned fire on their assailants. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in the exchange, one by shrapnel from an explosive device and another by a stone.
Joseph’s Tomb has often been a flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians. At the start of the Second Intifada (also known as the “Oslo War”) in October 2000, Palestinians swarmed Joseph’s Tomb, set fire to the yeshiva located there, burned Jewish holy books and ransacked the main shrine. Again in 2015, Palestinians attacked and burned the holy site after Jews had resumed worshipping there.
Monday’s clash comes amid rising tension in the so-called “West Bank.”
A series of smaller confrontations were punctuated by a major IDF action against Hamas overnight Saturday, during which five Palestinian terrorists were killed.
Security officials later revealed that the coordinated raids had targeted a well-organized Hamas cell that was planning to carry out a series of kidnappings, as well as an imminent large-scale attack in Jerusalem.
In addition to the five cell members who were killed during the action, another 20 have been arrested in recent days. A smaller number are still believed to be on the run.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said of the successful operation: “This is a significant achievement, a night of a series of preemptive raids of the utmost importance that prevented — from our understanding — significant terror attacks. Such attacks could have been carried out in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Afula or anywhere else.”