500 Israeli citizens, escorted by dozens of military vehicles, drove by bus deep into the West Bank on Wednesday in a provocative visit to a West Bank settlement. The settlement has been the home of a number of violent attackers of local Palestinians, and many incidents of violence originated from the settlement. The most recent incident was the burning of Palestinian olive trees in the area this past weekend, just one of dozens of arsons that no police force has investigated.
On Wednesday, dozens of buses entered the West Bank in violation of the Oslo agreement and other signed accords, in the second such incident this month. On August 5th, around 300 Israelis were escorted into the same area to visit a site known as ‘Joseph’s Tomb’.
During the incursion, Israeli military forces deployed in the area implemented increased security checks on the Palestinian residents of the region, delaying some people for several hours at checkpoints in order to allow the Jewish worshippers to pass freely.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank was recently given the authority by Israeli military rulers to be able to refurbish the site, which is a holy place of pilgrimage to Christians, Muslims and Jews. Israeli Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger criticized the idea of Palestinians having control over a holy site that is on their own land – despite the fact that Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites were all preserved and maintained during the hundreds of years of Muslim rule over the Holy Land, the Rabbis stated, “If the PA receives the right to refurbish the holy gravesite, it is clear that it will end up becoming a mosque…How can we give them authority and ownership over the place that is one of the three [in addition to Jerusalem and Hevron] that our Sages teach that the Gentiles cannot claim is not ours?… Such a disgrace cannot be allowed.”
The tomb is located near Balata refugee camp in Nablus, where thousands of Palestinian refugees live after having been exiled from their homes in what is now Israel.
After the last such incident, Taleb Abu Sha’ar, the Minister of Religious Affairs in Gaza challenged the Israeli military’s decision to escort the invading civilians, calling it a violation and provocation.