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Saturday, 7 October, 2000, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Jewish shrine ransacked
Shrine ransacked in Nablus
Israel is furious at the ransacking of the Nablus shrine
By Lyse Doucet in Nablus

Joseph's Tomb is now destroyed, its domed 19th century structure survived the Palestinian attack, but its concrete shell is blackened, so is the cenotaph which sits inside.

But little else remained intact when it was ransacked and set alight.

Joseph's Tomb
19th century structure dedicated the Biblical patriarch Joseph
Israeli Jews claimed it after 1967 war
Palestinians saw it as a symbol of Israeli occupation
A muddy floor covered with cinders is strewn with charred wood, torn Jewish prayer books, metal railings turned upside down.

The Israeli military post which once surrounded it is also gutted.

Flashpoint

Joseph's Tomb was long a flash point for violence, sitting the Palestinian town of Nablus Israeli troops were sitting ducks whenever Palestinians decided to vent their anger.

Last week an Israeli soldier bled to death inside. Israel decided it was time to get out.

Responsibility for keeping the shrine safe was handed over temporarily to the Palestinian authority.

The Palestinian forces proved unable and maybe unwilling to protect it.

They insist they tried to keep the crowds at bay reminding them this traditional burial place for Joseph, the Biblical patriarch is, after all, holy to Muslims too.

But the religious site was most of all a symbol of Israel's continuing occupation.

Israeli Jews only claimed it when Israel seized the West Bank in the 1967 war.

'Liberated area'

So the Palestinian flag has now been raised by triumphant crowds, who thronged what they call a "liberated area".

This will certainly add further strain to the now much weakened cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian forces, and Jews in the near-by settlement immediately took to the streets in protest at this desecration of the shrine.

It is not the last Israel has heard of Joseph's Tomb.

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See also:

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