NABLUS, West Bank — Israeli troops escorting Jewish worshippers on a pre-dawn visit Thursday to a flashpoint shrine in the West Bank clashed with Palestinian protesters, wounding four, medics said.
The Palestinian medical officials said that one man wounded by live fire was taken to the hospital in the city of Nablus and another was taken away by the Israelis.
Another two were treated at the city's Rafidiya hospital for wounds from rubber-coated bullets, they said.
The Israeli army said that troops opened fire, wounding one Palestinian, after shots were fired at them.
"Overnight, gunshots were fired at security personnel escorting Israeli civilians who were praying in Joseph's Tomb in Nablus," a military statement said.
Soldiers, it added, "returned fire towards the suspected shooter in self-defense."
"The individual was moderately wounded and after receiving preliminary medical treatment by a military doctor was transferred to a nearby Israeli hospital for further care," the statement said.
Army radio said that the injured man had apparently fired pistol shots at soldiers.
The tomb, inside a compound in the Palestinian refugee camp of Balata in Nablus, has been the scene of recurring violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Many Jews believe it to be the final resting place of the biblical Joseph, while Muslims believe that an Islamic cleric, Sheik Yussef (Joseph) Dawiqat was buried there two centuries ago.
It was renovated after Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War and was reopened to Jewish visitors in 1995, two years after the 1993 Oslo Accords which saw Israeli forces pulling out of Nablus.
In October 2000, at the start of the second intifada, or uprising, Palestinians attacked the site, vandalizing the tomb and partly destroying it after driving out an Israeli border police detachment stationed there, one of whom died in the fighting, along with six Palestinians.
The shrine is now under Palestinian control and off-limits to Israelis except on escorted trips organized by the army.
Palestinian security forces in 2011 shot at an Israeli vehicle that entered the Palestinian-controlled area without permission, killing Jerusalem resident Ben-Yosef Livnat, a 24-year-old father of four and nephew of hawkish culture minister Limor Livnat.
© AFP 2013