A group of 15 Israelis en route to Joseph's Tomb, near the West Bank city of Nablus, came under fire Sunday.
One man, Ben-Yosef Livant (24) from Jerusalem, was killed and five others suffered serious to moderate injuries and were air-lifted to the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva. Livnat, a father of four, is Minister Limor Livnat's nephew.
The group, comprising of Breslov Hassisim, was reportedly traveling in a three-car convoy. Initial details suggest that while driving back from prayers, around 6 am, they came across a flash checkpoint and then came under fire shot at them from a Palestinian jeep. The fire continued even after the vehicles began to escape. Two of the three Israeli cars sustained gunfire damage.
According to reports, the injured were able to make it to a nearby military base after the shooting, where the man who suffered mortal wounds succumbed to his injuries.
Initial IDF investigation suggests the group may have failed to coordinate their arrival at the Tomb with the necessity authorities and may have been shot by Palestinian security forces. Sources told Ynet that the identity of the shooter is known.
Evacuating the injured (Photo: Tomeriko)
Magen David Adom reported that emergency services dispatched to the scene had no choice but to declare one of the injured, a man in his 30s, dead at the scene. Another man (20) was air-lifted to the Rabin medical center suffering from a serious abdominal injury and is undergoing emergency surgery.
A 17-year-old boy suffered moderate gunshot wound to the shoulder and several others, who suffered mild injuries and were treated on site.
Magen David Adom Spokesman Zachi Heller added that "MDA and IDF medical teams arrived at the Samaria Division base, where the injured arrived. A man who was serious wounded was medevaced by a military helicopter.
Generally, the coordination between Israeli and Palestinian security forces in the area is effective. A full investigation into the incident has been launched. The GOC Central Command said that in many cases Palestinian security forces work to extract Israelis who enter Palestinian cities safely, and the IDF sector commanders are in daily contact with their Palestinian counterparts.
"This was an abnormal event which does not characterize the nature of the relationship," a military source said. "It is possible that the group's failure to coordinate the visit caused a misunderstanding. The matter is under investigation."
Governor of Nablus Jibril al-Bakri told Ynet that the shooting was unintentional, calling it a "security incident" and not a "shooting attack."
He added that the group aroused suspicion, as it entered the West Bank city without coordinating the visit. He further said several warning shots were fired prior to the fire on the vehicles themselves.
Al-Bakri stressed the incident was under investigation and refused to say weather the shooters were indeed members of the Palestinian police.
Palestinian eyewitnesses said that the group was not accompanied by IDF soldiers, as customary; adding the shooting took place not far from the Balata refugee camp, a mere dozen yards away from the Tomb. The Palestinians added that the hassidim clashed with Palestinian security forces, apparently over the former's refusal to heed the latter's calls to stop.
Gershon Mesika head of the Shomron Regional Council said that the Palestinian officers were clearly at fault: "Breslov Hassidim come to the Tomb to pray every week. They know them but for some reason, they decided to open fire this time."
Since the end of the Al-Aqsa Intifada,
Joseph's Tomb has been under Palestinian control. The IDF allows organized groups to visit the premises at night, under heavy guard. Nevertheless Breslov Hassidim often arrive at the Tomb sans coordination with the proper authorities.
In 2003, a group of Breslov Hassidim attempting to enter the premises unannounced also came under fire, leaving two seriously injured.
Yair Altman, Hanan Greenberg, Raanan Ben-Zur, Eliror Levy and Meital Yasur-Beit Or contributed to this report