Hundreds of Palestinian Rioters Torch Biblical Patriarch Joseph's Tomb in West Bank

Undated photo of the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus in the West Bank.
Undated photo of the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus in the West Bank. | (Photo: Reuters)

The tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph has reportedly suffered severe damage in the West Bank city of Nablus after hundreds of Palestinian rioters set fire to the holy site early Friday morning.

"This arson shows that the Palestinian Authority's occupation is no different than that of Islamic State," claimed Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Liberman accused PA President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting the rioters to burn down holy and historical sites, paralleling that to the actions of the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria.

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BBC News said that Abbas has condemned the arson, however, saying that it "offends our culture and our religion and our values." The Palestinian leader also promised that the site would be repaired.

The tomb is located on the slope of Mount Gerizim in Nablus, and is venerated by people across the Abrahamic faiths. It is believed to contain the remains of biblical patriarch Joseph, one of Jacob's sons, as found in the book of Genesis.

The holy site in Nablus was apparently overran by dozens of Palestinian attackers, who used petrol bombs to set fire to the tomb. The fire was put out by Palestinian police, who also managed to disperse the crowd.

Israeli military and Palestinians have been involved in several clashes in the past month in the West Bank. At least seven Israelis have been killed in stabbings and gun attacks, while 30 Palestinians have also lost their lives.

Despite Abbas denouncing the latest attack, Israeli politicians said that the PA is responsible for the outbreaks of violence.

"The torching of Jewish holy sites is yet another low," said Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, according to Haaretz.

"This is the result of Palestinian incitement. While the Palestinians are lying through their teeth about the status quo on Temple Mount as a means to change it, they themselves are burning and desecrating the holy places of Israel."

Only hours before the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called on the PA to stop inciting "aggression."

Tensions began rising again in September after Jews and Muslims clashed over alleged plans by Israel to increase Jewish rights at another holy site in Jerusalem.

Conservative groups in the U.S. have meanwhile accused President Barack Obama of failing to speak out more forcefully against the attacks on Israelis.

"The upsurge of terror attacks against innocent Israelis is a direct result of the consistent incitement to violence against Jews by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. This latest wave of terror is the predictable consequence of the vitriolic anti-Jewish rhetoric that bombards Palestinians on a daily basis — nothing else," said Gary L. Bauer, Washington director of the Christians United for Israel Action Fund.

The White House shared of its "deep concerns" on Wednesday at the escalating situation in the West Bank, though Secretary of State John Kerry has refused to blame either side exclusively for the violence.

"We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks against innocent civilians," Kerry said. "There is absolutely no justification for these reprehensible attacks."

The U.N. Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting later on Friday to discuss the rising level of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

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