Israeli Jews hold rare prayers at West Bank holy site

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Hundreds of Israeli Jews held a rare prayers session by a mosque in a Palestinian village on the occupied West Bank early Sunday, an AFP photographer said.

The Israeli army accompanied buses carrying over 300 ultra-Orthodox men, mostly from the Breslov Hassidic sect, to Younis mosque in Halhul, north of Hebron, where according to Jewish tradition biblical prophets Gad and Nathan are buried.

One worshipper told AFP it was the first time in 18 years that Jews were allowed to pray at the site, deep in a Palestinian-controlled area.

A military spokeswoman said the army and police forces accompanying the worshippers were attacked by Palestinians hurling “rocks and firebombs”, with the forces responding with riot dispersal means to “prevent further escalation”.

No injuries were reported, the spokeswoman said.

According to tradition, the graves are located inside the mosque, but the Jewish worshippers did not enter the holy site, rather held an hour of pre-dawn prayers on the road outside before leaving, the photographer said.

There are a number of sites holy to Jews in Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank that are the site of pilgrimages.

Most popular are Rachel’s tomb near Bethlehem and the tomb of Joseph in Nablus.

On Friday, a Palestinian from Halhul rammed his car into Israeli civilians nearby, wounding two before trying to stab soldiers and being shot.

The army arrested a number of his family members and imposed a partial closure on the village, which by Sunday had been lifted, the army said.

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