Salfit – Ma'an – Israeli troops escorted what locals estimated to be 6,000 settlers to the Prophet Zel Kifl's shrine in the Salfit-district town of Kilf Haris before dawn on Friday morning.
According to witnesses, the military shutdown entrances to the town, installing checkpoints at all intersections, took positions on civilian rooftops and imposed a curfew on residents, watching as settlers thew stones at homes and, in one case, assaulting a civilian who tried to cross a checkpoint.
Rami Mahmoud Obeid, a Kifl Haris resident, and several of his neighbors said settlers pelted his home with rocks as soldiers looked on.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was not aware of any stone throwing during the visit to what Jewish worshipers call the tomb of Yehoshua Ben-Nun, and noted coordination had been negotiated with village officials prior to the visit.
"The visit was held in the late hours of the night as to limit the interruption of life" activities in the village, the spokeswoman said, adding that the settlers left before sunrise.
Settler visits to the shrine are a semi-regular occurrence, the most recent taking place on 23 December 2009, and before that on 8 August 2009. Both visits resulted in the shutdown of the village, with movement restrictions placed on residents as military forces took control of the area during the worship hours.
Similar incidents occur in areas across the West Bank, notably in Nablus at Joseph's Tomb. During an 11 February visit, residents reported acts of vandalism in a school adjacent to the tomb, and blamed settlers for the acts.
The Israeli military, however, said it was their soldiers who damaged the building "in order to secure" a 500-strong settler visit.
An Israeli military spokesman explained at the time, "While entering, minor damage was caused to the school. The IDF took note of the damage and is cooperating with the Palestinian authorities in order to fix the damage."
When teachers and students arrived at the school they found it had been broken into, with several windows smashed and garbage thrown in the school water reserves, school officials reported.
The Nablus municipality said its health crews examined the water and found it had been contaminated by trash. The reserve had to be emptied, disinfected, and re-filled, officials said.
Click to view image: '58a91cf0fd17-12331.jpg'
A spokeswoman for Nablus governor Anan Al-Atira condemned what she said was an attack by settlers.
"This is not the first time the school has been vandalized by worshipping settlers," she said, pointing to an incident several months ago when some damage had also been done.
|Liveleak on Facebook|