Joseph's Tomb site set ablaze by Palestinians
The compound housing Joseph's Tomb, a holy site venerated by Jews, was torched by a group of Palestinians on Friday night, compounding Israel-Palestine tensions, although Joseph's Tomb itself appeared to be unharmed. People had gathered at the site to erect a barricade preventing Israeli troops from demolishing homes aiming to deter future terror attacks. The act was condemned by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
Jews, by an unwritten agreement since 1967, were not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. In recent years, Jewish activists and right-wing politicans have demanded praying rights.
Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians erupted in mid-September fuelled by the rumour that a long-standing religious arrangement regarding the Temple Mount was to be altered in favour of Jews, The already existing tension escalated and violence erupted in Jerusalem when two Israelis were stabbed to death by a Palestinian on 4 October 2015. This was followed by a series of other stabbing attacks.
Last month saw Israel-Palestine tensions increase as 8 Israelis were killed in attacks involving knives. 5 Palestinians were killed and 269 injured in clashes with IDF on 16 October 2015. Palestinian officials claimed that 30 Palestinians had been killed and 1,100 had been injured in the last month. The UN Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.
The recent knife attacks on Israelis by Palestinians has seen many Israeli civilians with handgun permits arm themselves, while civilians without a permit are applying for one. The Israeli government has urged the civilian population to "work closely with law enforcement". Human rights organisations including Amnesty International, criticised calls for arming civilians, and said that Israeli security are "too quick to shoot to kill".
Located in a compound in the city of Nablus, 49 kilometres from Jerusalem, Joseph's Tomb was transferred to Palestinian control in 1995. Jewish pilgrims were permitted to visit once a month under IDF protection in visits co-ordinated with Palestinian authorities.
Joseph's Tomb is the final resting place of Joseph, a high Israelite patriarch who, according to biblical accounts, was sold into slavery as a boy, but rose to become the second-most powerful man in Egypt, next to the Pharaoh.
"These kinds of acts, or any other acts that violate the law and order...offend our culture, religion and morals," said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and reportedly called for an investigation. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Peter Lerner promised action, saying, "The IDF will take all measures to bring the perpetrators of this despicable act to justice...and ensure freedom of worship returns to Joseph's Tomb."