Arson at Joseph’s Tomb

Palestinian protesters threw Molotov cocktails at the site in the West Bank city of Nablus that is revered by Jews.

Palestinians rioters set fire to Joseph’s Tomb, a holy site in the West Bank town of Nablus that is revered by some Jews, damaging the structure, in the latest sign of escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Protesters, who threw Molotov cocktails at the structure, were dispersed by Palestinian security forces. Local firefighters extinguished the flames.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the incident “irresponsible” and said the site would be repaired. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Force tweeted:

The site is believed to be the resting place of the biblical Joseph. Jewish worshippers gathered to pray at the site every month, in visits coordinated with the Palestinian Authority. But Haaretz reports there were recent tensions over uncoordinated visits to the tomb. Here’s more from the Israeli newspaper:

Joseph’s Tomb was not included in the grave list of holy sites which was transferred to the Palestinians as a result of the second Oslo agreement signed in 1995. When the IDF pulled out of Nablus that same year as a result of the agreement, Od Yosef Hai, a yeshiva founded in the 1980s, it's name a Biblical reference, became a Jewish and Israeli enclave in the area. But in 2000, because of the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel completely withdrew from the grave, as it was too difficult to defend.

The attack on the site comes a day after Abbas spoke to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about the recent violence, which in the past month has seen eight Israelis killed in attacks by Palestinians, and 31 Palestinians, including 14 attackers, killed by Israeli fire. The numbers come from the Associated Press.

As my colleague Adam Chandler, who has been following the violence, reported earlier this month, the slow burn has been going on for more than a year, raising questions about whether a third intifada is already here. Here’s more:

In recent months, amid failed peace talks, continued fallout from the latest war in Gaza, politically motivated riots and car attacks, deadly rock-throwing and deadly responses to rock-throwing, stabbings, fatal  arson and shootings, clashes at holy sites, the expansion of settlements and price-tag attacks, the rhetorical canceling of both previous peace deals, and the future peace process, the answer seems to increasingly be this: A Third Intifada is here and it doesn’t resemble the previous two. …

The character of the recent violence has also changed from previous years, which has made it more difficult to contain. The rise of more “lone wolf attacks,” be it by settler youth in the West Bank or more pedestrian Palestinian attacks that come without coordination from terrorist groups, have given some sense of spontaneity to the violence. As a result, the tensions have remained at a low simmer, never fully escalating and never fully receding.

Indeed, a Palestinian man attacked an IDF soldier with a knife in the West Bank town of Hebron. He was shot and killed. The soldier was moderately injured.