JERUSALEM, Israel - A Palestinian National Authority policeman opened fire on a three-car caravan of Orthodox Jews leaving Joseph's Tomb outside the P.A.-controlled city of Nablus (biblical Shechem) early Sunday morning, killing one man and injuring four others.
Jerusalem resident Ben Yosef Livnat, 25, a father of four and nephew of Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, was pronounced dead at the scene.
"I woke up this morning, Ben Yosef's mom called me and told me he was murdered by a terrorist disguised as a Palestinian policeman. This is cold-blooded murder. Ben Yosef went to pray with other Jews, and he was murdered simply because he was Jewish. It is hard to grasp these things. My own nephew, a personal sacrifice, may he be the last victim," Livnat said at his funeral hours later.
A 20-year-old who suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen was airlifted to Bellinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah where he underwent emergency surgery. A 17-year-old shot in the shoulder was transported by ambulance for treatment. Two others were treated for lighter wounds.
The P.A. policeman claimed he opened fire after identifying "suspicious" individuals. But Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika told Army Radio the P.A. security forces are aware of the Breslev Hasidim's monthly prayer visits, which are often not coordinated with the IDF.
In its initial investigation, the IDF also concluded that the P.A. officer knew he was firing on unarmed Jewish worshippers who despite entering the area without a permit posed no threat whatsoever.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the attack, saying that nothing justifies firing on innocent people. Barak ordered the IDF to investigate the incident fully and admonished the Palestinian National Authority to take the appropriate action against their security officer.
A statement by Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division on the shooting has been posted on the IDF's website. Click here to view his statement.
Within hours after the shooting, a Palestinian mob vandalized the site, destroying recent renovations and setting it on fire.
Following the incident, Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Danny Danon (Likud) contacted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fl, chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, questioning the Palestinians use of U.S. aid and training of P.A. security forces.
"As a true friend of Israel, we expect that the U.S. objective of training the P.A. is to ensure the security of Israel and not the killing of its citizens," Danon said.
At the start on the second intifada in the fall of 2000, Palestinians vandalized Joseph's Tomb and tried to convert it to a mosque. The site has been restored and vandalized at least twice since then.