Palestinians Set Fire to Joseph's Tomb
IDF spokesman calls it 'blatant violation of the basic value of freedom of worship'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2015 7:39 AM CDT
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman prays at Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus, May 30, 2011.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

(Newser) – A holy site in the West Bank often visited by Jewish pilgrims under the cover of darkness with the Israeli military protecting them was set on fire by Palestinians Thursday night. Though firefighters put out the blaze, the incident has only added fuel to the fire already burning between the region's Israelis and Palestinians, the BBC reports. The attack in Nablus on Joseph's Tomb, said to be the burial site of the Bible's Joseph, 11th son of Jacob, involved gas bombs and occurred just hours after Benjamin Netanyahu implored Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to call for a stop to local violence—and a day before a planned Palestinian "day of rage," per USA Today. Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, called it "a blatant violation of the basic value of freedom of worship" in a tweet; Israel's agriculture minister called the tomb arson "unforgivable."

Tensions had already descended into a death spiral, with dozens of deaths from stabbings and shootings in Israel over the past month, CNN and the BBC report; at least seven Israelis and at least 30 Palestinians have been killed. The tomb itself has also been attacked before, including when it was almost decimated by Palestinians in 2000. CNN cites a Palestinian official who says the tomb is still standing but part of the compound has burned. Abbas spoke out against "these kind of acts or any other acts that violate the law and order and offends our culture, religion, and morals," per the Palestinians' WAFA news group, but Israel doesn't plan on letting things lie: Lerner tweeted that the "#IDF will bring perpetrators to justice."