Israeli killed in holy site shooting

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The Independent Online

A Palestinian policeman shot and killed one Israeli and wounded four others early today near Joseph's Tomb, a Jewish holy site in the Palestinian city of Nablus, the Israeli military said.

The circumstances of the shooting were not immediately clear. One man approximately 30 years old reached an Israeli base outside Nablus before dying of his wounds, the military and rescue services said.

Two others reached a Jewish settlement nearby with bullet wounds and were rushed to hospital in a serious condition, while two more suffered light injuries.

Jewish worshippers often enter Nablus with a military escort to pray at the small building traditionally identified as the tomb of the biblical Joseph, located inside a Palestinian-ruled area.

Those visits are co-ordinated with Palestinian security forces. The Israelis' entrance on Sunday, however, appeared not to have been cleared with either side.

Palestinian officials have notified the Israeli military that the Israelis "were shot by a Palestinian policeman who, after identifying suspicious movements, fired in their direction", the Israeli military said in a statement.

Israeli and Palestinian security forces in the West Bank have close ties. A meeting between the sides was scheduled later Sunday to discuss the incident, the military said.

Jibril al-Bakri, the Palestinian governor of Nablus, said the Palestinian Authority was investigating. He would not confirm that a Palestinian policeman had opened fire, but said the investigation is focusing on the Palestinian police patrol assigned to guard the tomb.

"The main problem is that they (the Israelis) entered the city without co-ordination," Mr al-Bakri said.

The Palestinian Authority governs parts of the West Bank under Israel's overall security control.

Nablus moved from Israeli to Palestinian control in the 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 mob subsequently ransacked and burned the building.

The tomb was later restored. In recent years, thanks to improving security conditions in the West Bank and increased co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian forces, Jewish worshippers have been travelling to the tomb in organised convoys.