Israeli Civilian Killed in West Bank

Israeli and Palestinian security officials are to meet to investigate a shooting in the West Bank in which an Israeli civilian was killed and four others were wounded.

The Israeli military told Al Jazeera that a Palestinian policeman opened fire on Sunday at a group of Israelis who had come to pray at a Jewish holy site in Nablus without authorisation.

The military said it had been notified by Palestinian officials that "the civilians were shot by a Palestinian policeman who, after identifying suspicious movements, fired in their direction".

The governor of Nablus, Jibreen al-Bakri, said the group of Israelis had "entered the area without co-ordinating it with the Palestinian Authority (PA), as is the understanding with Israel".

"We have detained the forces responsible for securing the area and are investigating what happened," he told the Reuters news agency.

Israeli police identified the dead man as Ben-Yosef Livnat, a Jerusalem resident in his mid-twenties. Israeli media reported that Livnat was the nephew of Limor Livnat, a prominent hawkish cabinet minister from the ruling Likud Party.

Ben-Yosef Livnat was laid to rest later on Sunday.

Limor Livnat, who attended the funeral, was quoted by the Maariv daily’s website, NRG, as saying her nephew had been killed by a "terrorist disguised as a Palestinian policeman".

The shooting threatened to inflame tensions in the West Bank, where Jewish settlers and Palestinians live in uneasy proximity and where settlers have responded to attacks in the past with violent reprisals.

Israeli military and police surrounded the tomb after the shooting and clashes broke out with dozens of Palestinians, prompting troops to fire in the air and throw sound bombs in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Ben-Yosef Livnat and several companions entered the Palestinian city of Nablus early on Sunday to visit a site known as Joseph’s Tomb.

Jewish worshippers regularly enter the city with a special military escort to pray at the small building traditionally identified as the gravesite of the biblical Joseph, located inside a Palestinian-ruled area.

Unlike Sunday’s visit, however, the visits are usually co-ordinated with Palestinian security forces.

The PA governs parts of the West Bank, though Israel retains overall security control.

But as co-ordination has improved, the Israeli military has ceded increasing responsibility to Palestinian forces in areas under their control.

Nablus moved from Israeli to Palestinian control in the mid-1990s as part of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but Israel retained control over the tomb building.

In 2000, after deadly fighting around the tomb, Israel’s military pulled out and turned the tomb over to the Palestinians. A crowd subsequently ransacked and burned the building. The tomb was later restored.

In recent years, thanks to improving security conditions, Jewish worshippers have been travelling to the tomb in organised convoys.

The West Bank has been largely quiet for several years, but tensions remain.
(Al Jazeera and Agencies)

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