Joseph’s Tomb site catches fire in wave of Palestinian-Israeli violence – CNN

Some Palestinians had started a barricade to prevent Israeli troops from entering Nablus to destroy Palestinian homes when a smaller group tried to set fire to the tomb, a Palestinian official told CNN under condition of anonymity. Part of the compound burned, but the tomb remained intact, the official said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned “these kind of acts or any other acts that violate the law and order and offends our culture, religion, and morals,” according to the Palestinian official WAFA news agency. He formed a committee to investigate the fire.

Jewish settlements are near Nablus, and one of them, Shavei Shomron, demanded Friday that the IDF take over guardianship of the tomb.

The Israeli government has vowed to restore the tomb compound, which has been the site of previous attacks, and find whoever set it afire.

“IDF will bring perpetrators to justice, restore the site & ensure that freedom of worship returns to Josephs Tomb,” IDF spokesman Peter Lerner tweeted.

U.N. Security Council to discuss the violence

A spate of violence has cost at least 42 lives in Israel and the Palestinian territories in a few weeks’ time. There’s been little letup in the bloodshed or agreement on who is to blame.

On Friday, Israeli troops shot and killed an alleged Palestinian assailant — in disguise as a news photographer — who had stabbed a soldier in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement outside Hebron in the West Bank, the IDF said. The soldier was moderately wounded, according to the Israeli military.

The IDF said it was another case in which Palestinian attackers have wielded knifes against Israeli civilians and authorities, and Israeli security forces have turned their guns on them. Israeli authorities have also fired during Palestinian protests that have turned riotous.

Also Friday, a 20-year-old Palestinian was shot dead during clashes with Israeli forces near the Erez Crossing in Gaza, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said.

In the past month, eight Israelis died in 30 attacks with knives and other weapons that wounded many more. In the last two weeks, at least 34 Palestinians have been killed, including some who pulled knives. Others have been shot in clashes with Israeli security forces, Palestinian authorities have said.

More than 1,100 Palestinians have been injured.

The United States — consistently supportive of the right of Israelis to defend themselves and usually reserved in its criticism — has expressed concern about Israeli security forces using live ammunition in the face of rock-throwing Palestinian youths.

The U.N. Security Council is set to meet Friday over the unrest. The council holds monthly briefings on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The briefings usually touch on any recent violence.

Attacks not believed to be organized

The recent knife attacks have confounded Israeli authorities. They have spent millions to prevent suicide bombings with high concrete barriers and to stop rockets from Gaza with the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

But a knife is easy to obtain and carry into a crowd. Israeli authorities so far don’t believe the attacks are the result of any campaign of violence organized by militant groups.

Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, has praised the attacks but not claimed responsibility for them.

It’s often young Palestinians who may be acting out alone or recruited or at least encouraged via social media, Israeli authorities have said.

Civilians arming themselves

In this atmosphere of fear, many Israelis are changing the routes of their commutes, and many who have handgun permits are carrying weapons. Others are applying for permits.

The Israeli government has even called for them to do so.

“The responsible civilian population — in the framework of the rule of law — has a part to play,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Thursday. “We’ve urged Israelis to be vigilant. … Having the civilian population work closely with law enforcement is one of the keys in defeating this threat.”

In recent days, Israeli security forces have swiftly shot dead two Palestinian teenagers who attacked with knives. Abbas, the Palestinian President, accused Israel of committing what he called “extrajudicial executions.”

A coalition of human rights organizations — including Amnesty International and the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories — has said police and soldiers are “too quick to shoot to kill” and criticized calls for civilians to carry weapons.

Clashes at holy site

Palestinian resentments are hardly new, but Israelis and Palestinians have had better relations at times.

Those have since been buried by the second intifada, in which organized deadly attacks targeted Israelis from 2000 to 2005, and three wars in Gaza that killed thousands of Palestinians.

Recent developments have made things worse.

Hard-line Jewish activists have begun demanding greater access to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, in Jerusalem’s Old City, and right-wing politicians have called for the rights of Jews to pray there. Known as Haram Al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, it’s also one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, has accused Israeli security forces of escorting Jewish hard-liners onto the Temple Mount and into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Clashes at the site have become common.

Jewish settlements

Attempts by the United States to revive the Mideast peace process have fallen flat for more than a decade, with the most recent hopes being dashed last year, followed by the third Gaza war.

In the meantime, Israel has forged ahead with the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which cut crisscrossing furrows through Palestinian territory.

This week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the boom in settlements.

“There’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years,” Kerry said. “Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement.”

Israeli-Palestinian violence: What you need to know

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