Israeli settlers escorted by security forces to religious sites throughout West Bank

Published April 28th, 2016 - 12:00 GMT
Jews at prayer in Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AFP/File)
Jews at prayer in Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AFP/File)

Israeli forces escorted groups of Israelis to holy sites located in Palestinian towns across the occupied West Bank causing clashes to erupt early Thursday, as tensions remained heightened during the ongoing Jewish holiday.

Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that hundreds of Israeli settlers arrived in over 15 buses to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus around midnight.

Located in the Palestinian city of Nablus, Israeli military forces who secured the area for the settlers’ entrance clashed with Palestinian youths near the holy site, firing tear gas and stun grenades as youth threw stones and empty bottles. No injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma’an that forces accompanied Israelis to the site, where Palestinians hurled rocks and burning tires at the armed forces. 

Meanwhile, just outside the Bethlehem-area village of al-Khader, municipality head Isaac Sbeih told Ma’an that some 70 Israeli settlers alongside Israeli soldiers entered Solomon’s Pools.

Hundreds of Israelis have travelled across the occupied Palestinian territory under armed protection during this year’s Passover holiday, often to sites located in Area A, areas of the West Bank that are supposed to be under full Palestinian jurisdiction according to the Oslo Accords.

The majority of sites visited are flashpoint holy sites, and visits to take place since Passover began on Friday have led the Israeli authorities to impose severe restrictions on Palestinians as Israelis cross though occupied territory.

Such visits spark frustration among Palestinians who see the incursions as a direct threat to Palestinian sovereignty and any potential for a future independent Palestinian state, which has been effectively marred by increasing settler presence across Palestinian land.

Dozens of Israelis Wednesday visited a local park in al-Karmil south of Yatta, and thousands have travelled through Hebron’s Old City to visit the Ibrahimi Mosque, known to Jews as the Cave of Patriachs.

Israeli politicians and settlers on Tuesday held a mass rally in Hebron’s Old City -- located in the center of the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank -- where a number of officials called for the total annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian shop owners meanwhile were forced to shut their storefronts and residents of the Old City were put under virtual lockdown by Israeli forces, according to locals.

In occupied East Jerusalem’s Old city, far-right Israeli extremists have been evacuated from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on a near-daily basis since Passover began, for violating visitation rules.

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