Joseph's Tomb killing was 'not terror attack'

The death of 24-year-old Breslav Chasid Ben-Yossef Livnat in Nablus on Sunday was described by the IDF as a "serious event" but not a terror attack.

The settlers, though, had no doubts: their friend had been murdered by Palestinian policemen because he was a Jew.

Groups of Chasidim and settlers have been trying to get to Joseph's Tomb on the southern outskirts of Nablus since the IDF abandoned its outpost there in October 2000, at the start of the Second Intifada.

The tomb is in Area A, under the total jurisdiction of Palestinian forces, and the IDF has been trying to prevent the unco-ordinated entrance of Israeli citizens. But at around 5am, three cars filled with Chasidim managed to evade the roadblocks and reach the tomb. As they began praying, a Palestinian patrol arrived and ordered them out.

It is very dangerous to go there without co-ordination

At this point the versions differ. The Palestinian commanders insisted that their men were threatened by the Chasidim who tried to throw stones at them and snatch their weapons. The Chasidim claimed that the policemen immediately opened fire at them. "We are still investigating," said a senior IDF officer, "but it seems that the Palestinians first fired in the air and only when the Chasidim tried to drive at their roadblock did they open fire on them. They shouldn't have done so but it wasn't a deliberate murder." Ben-Yossef Livnat was killed on the spot and four of his friends were wounded.

The settler leadership blamed "the terrorists in uniforms of policemen" and called for the IDF to retake the entire area around the tomb. Ben-Yossef Livnat was the nephew of Culture Minister Limor Livnat, who said after his funeral that "they were deliberately trying to murder Jews who were just trying to pray".

Despite this, the IDF refused to regard the shooting as a terror attack. Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brigadier General Nitzan Alon, said: "The IDF allows secured visits to the tomb. It is very dangerous to go without co-ordination."

Senior IDF commanders met on Sunday with their Palestinian counterparts on Sunday and agreed to keep the entrances to Nablus open. Breslav Chasidim promised that they would continue to try to reach the tomb.

    Last updated: 11:41am, April 28 2011