Israeli man killed during visit to Joseph’s Tomb

JERUSALEM – The nephew of an Israeli government minister was killed and at least four men were injured during a visit to Joseph’s Tomb near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Ben-Joseph Livnat, 25, a father of four from Jerusalem and the nephew of Science and Culture Minister Limor Livnat of the ruling Likud Party, was among a group of 15 Breslov Chasidim who arrived early Sunday morning in three cars to worship at the site, which is holy to Jews and is located in West Bank territory under Palestinian control.

The worshipers did not coordinate their visit with the Israeli army and tried to break through a Palestinian checkpoint, according to a joint investigation of the Israeli military and the Palestinian Authority.

A Palestinian security guard reportedly fired on one of the cars as it was leaving the site, saying the men’s activities looked “suspicious.” Worshipers in the other cars told Ynet that the Palestinian police officers shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” as they shot at the vehicles leaving the site.

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A senior Israel Defense Forces official termed the incident “a serious mishap caused by both sides,” Haaretz reported. The army is refraining from referring to the shooting as a terror attack but has called it an unjustified attack against civilians.

Rioting occurred in Nablus following the shooting, according to reports, and the tomb also reportedly was set on fire by Palestinian youths. The tomb was renovated recently after being badly damaged and desecrated during the second Palestinian intifada.

The minister Livnat said in a statement that her nephew had wanted to pray at the tomb in honor of the Passover holiday and that he “was killed in cold blood in an abominable way.”

Thousands attended Ben-Joseph Livnat’s funeral on Sunday morning.

The Israeli army coordinates monthly prayer visits to the tomb, believed to be the burial site of the biblical patriarch Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Members of the Breslov sect frequently sneak in to the tomb to pray without coordinating their visits, according to reports. -JTA