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israelis and palestinians

Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Nablus, has been torched by Palestinians, amid soaring tensions with Israel.

Rioters set fire to the tomb which Jews revere as that of the biblical figure Joseph. Palestinian security forces managed to put out the blaze.

It came hours after Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinian leadership to stop a wave of attacks.

There have been near-daily stabbings by Palestinians of Israelis this month, as violence between the two sides spirals.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Israel’s military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner tweeted that attack on Joseph’s Tomb was “a blatant violation of the basic value of freedom of worship”.

Peter Lerner said Israeli security forces would “bring perpetrators to justice and restore the site”.

This is not the first time the tomb has come under attack. Palestinians tried to set fire to it again last year and virtually destroyed the site in 2000.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians over the past two weeks have been fuelled by clashes in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and across the Gaza border, as well as the wave of stabbings.

Seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded.

At least 30 Palestinians, including several of the attackers, have been killed in recent violence.

Israeli police have banned Palestinians from East Jerusalem from entering the Old City for two days after two Israeli men were killed and three injured in separate attacks in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian attackers were shot dead by police.

The latest violence comes two days after an Israeli couple was shot dead in the West Bank.

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold emergency talks with security officials on October 4.

The restrictions will stop Palestinians from entering the Old City unless they live there. But Israelis, local business owners and schoolchildren will be allowed in.

The first stabbing incident took place on Saturday evening, just after the end of the Jewish Sabbath, close to Lion’s Gate in the Old City.Israelis killed in Jerusalem attacks October 2015

The two Israelis killed by Palestinians were Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, a resident of the Old City, as well as 21-year-old Aharon Bennett who lives in a West Bank settlement.

The Palestinian man – named as Mohammad Halabi, a 19-year-old law student from a village near Ramallah in the West Bank – attacked Aharon Bennett, his wife, their two-year-old son and baby daughter who were on their way to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.

Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, a reserve officer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was killed as he tried to defend the family, the ministry said.

Aharon Bennett’s wife was seriously wounded, while their son suffered minor injuries and their baby was unharmed, it added.​

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the Palestinian attacker had taken a gun from one of the wounded men and opened fire at police and tourists. He was then shot and killed by an Israeli police officer who had rushed to the scene.

Police later identified the attacker as a 19-year-old from al-Bireh, near Ramallah in the West Bank. The militant group Islamic Jihad issued a statement claiming him as one of its members.

In the second incident, a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli teenager on a street in West Jerusalem in the early hours of Sunday, October 4. The attacker was also shot dead by police, similar to the earlier incident on Sunday.

There has been a recent flare-up in tensions between Israel and Palestinians, with violent confrontations between security forces and Palestinian youths in a compound holy to both Jews and Muslims in East Jerusalem.

Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

The day culminated with Christmas Eve Mass at the 1,700-year-old Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where it is believed Jesus was born.

In Bethlehem, Patriarch Fouad Twal, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem voiced his support for a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI held the traditional Mass at St Peter’s Basilica.

The pontiff urged Christians to “find time and room for God in their fast-paced lives”.

Pope Benedict prayed that Israelis and Palestinians be able to live their lives in peace. He also prayed for peace in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

The Mass, usually celebrated at midnight, was brought forward by two hours to avoid tiring the 85-year-old pontiff unduly.

Later on Tuesday, the Pope will deliver his traditional Christmas message to the city of Rome and to the world (Urbi et Orbi).

Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem

Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem

On Monday, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said this Christmas would be a celebration of “the birth of Christ our lord and the birth of the state of Palestine”.

“The path [to statehood] remains long, and will require a united effort,” he said.

The patriarch, who was born in Jordan, led a symbolic procession from Jerusalem’s Old City to the West Bank city, passing through the separation barrier and checkpoint built by the Israelis.

He was met at the church in Manger Square by thousands of tourists, pilgrims and clergy.

The patriarch later held the Mass at the Church of Nativity.

“From this holy place, I invite politicians and men of good will to work with determination for peace and reconciliation that encompasses Palestine and Israel in the midst of all the sufferings in the Middle East,” he said.

And referring to last month’s hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants, the patriarch said his prayers included “all Arab and Jewish families that have been touched by the conflict”.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas was present at the Mass.

In November, the United Nations upgraded the status of the Palestinians to that of a “non-member observer state”.

Israel – strongly backed by the US – opposed the move, describing it as a Palestinian ploy to bypass stalled peace negotiations.

The Church of Nativity is located in an area of the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority.

In June, the church was formally named a Unesco World Heritage Site – the first to be nominated by the Palestinians, who were made full members of Unesco earlier this year.

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