Arab Rioters Try to Burn Down Joseph's Tomb
JERUSALEM, Israel -- A Palestinian Arab mob set fire to Joseph's Tomb overnight Friday, severely damaging the site before firefighters extinguished the blaze. Palestinian police reportedly dispersed hundreds of rioters before Israeli forces arrived.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) promised "to make the necessary repairs to allow worshippers to visit the holy site," which has been desecrated numbers of times, in part because it's in Nablus (biblical Shechem) under Palestinian Authority control.
"The burning and desecration of Joseph's Tomb last night is a blatant violation and contradiction of the basic value of freedom of worship," IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement. "The IDF will take all measures to bring the perpetrators of this despicable act to justice, restore the site to its previous condition and ensure that the freedom of worship returns to Joseph's Tomb."
Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan said setting fire to one of Judaism's holiest sites is "barbaric and criminal."
"As a Jew I must voice my deep shock over this terrible act," Dagan said in a statement. "I believe that there's nobody from the free world who would not see this act as barbaric and criminal. To set on fire one of the holiest sites of the Jewish people -- a historical asset to the whole world!
Dagan also spoke out against the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, saying the incident proves Israel cannot rely on this 'partner' and calls on Netanyahu to bring IDF forces back to guard the site.
Meanwhile, Abbas also condemned the arson, according to the PLO's semi-official WAFA news agency, announcing the formation of a committee to investigate "the irresponsible action at dawn at Joseph's Tomb and to begin to repair the damage."
According to the report, he further "stressed the absolute rejection of such acts and any acts outside the law and order and that are offensive to our culture and our religion and our morals."
It was a far cry from the P.A. leader's endorsement of terror attacks in Jerusalem and elsewhere over the past two weeks.
Former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman compared the attack on Joseph's Tomb to the Islamic State's destruction of Christian holy sites in Iraq and Syria, alleging Abbas encourages such behavior.
Thursday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at length on Abbas' incitement of Palestinian youth and answered pointed questions by foreign journalists on Israel's response to the recent spate of terror attacks.
Click here to read the prime minister's remarks, including questions and answers.
Netanyahu called on the international community to speak out against Abbas' distortions and call to incitement.