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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08JERUSALEM1273 2008-07-17 15:06:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Jerusalem
Cable title:  

INCREASE IN UNCOORDINATED ISRAELI VISITS TO

Tags:   KWBG PHUM IS KIRF 
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VZCZCXRO9947
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #1273 1991506
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171506Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2157
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC PRIORITY
					  UNCLAS JERUSALEM 001273 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE AND IPA, NSC FOR ABRAMS/PASCUAL/SINGH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWBG PHUM IS KIRF
SUBJECT: INCREASE IN UNCOORDINATED ISRAELI VISITS TO
JOSEPH'S TOMB IN NABLUS



1. (SBU) Summary. IDF-escorted visits to Joseph,s Tomb in
Nablus (Area A) have increased in size and frequency in
recent months, according to Palestinian Authority (PA)
security officials. Nablus security commanders told PolOff
and POL FSN July 16 that they recognize the GOI's right to
make coordinated visits to the Tomb, but complain that the
IDF provides no notice of visits and employs heavy-handed
methods while escorting visitors, to include wide-ranging
curfews and temporary occupation of house rooftops. PA
officials also complained to PolOff and USSC officers that
the IDF has failed to stop unauthorized visits to the Tomb by
armed settlers, who have sometimes invaded residents' homes
and threatened them with weapons. End summary.

Heavy-Handed IDF Behavior and Settler
Violence Angers Residents, PA Officials


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Since late-2007, the frequency of IDF-escorted
visits to Joseph,s Tomb has increased, according to PA
security officials. Nablus National Security Forces (NSF)
commander BG Khayri Hassan told POL FSN on July 16 that the
IDF puts the area under curfew in advance of escorted
visitors, arrival, preventing movement of either residents
or PA security forces (PASF). He said the IDF sometimes
occupies rooftops of homes near the Tomb during visits,
restricting family members from entering certain rooms of
their houses.



3. (SBU) Other Nablus security officials told PolOff July 16
that armed settlers sometimes enter the Tomb area in eastern
Nablus without the IDF, and fire in the air, scaring
residents. These officials said on several occasions since
January 2007, settlers invaded the homes of residents near
the Tomb and damaged their belongings before the IDF arrived
and ordered them out.



4. (SBU) BG Hassan told POL FSN and USSC officers that the
increase in uncoordinated visits and resultant curfews
embarrasses the PA and undermines efforts to improve the PASF
public image. He said Israeli have the right to visit
Joseph's Tomb, but visits must be coordinated with the PA, as
the 1995 Interim Agreement requires, and conducted without
imposing wide-ranging curfews on residents. BG Hassan urged
IDF action against settlers, especially those with weapons,
who make unauthorized visits.

Continuing Conflict over Ottoman-Era Shrine


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Joseph,s Tomb is the remains of an Ottoman-era
shrine in Nablus near Balata Refugee Camp, built by the
Muslim rulers with contemporary recognition of Jewish rights
to visit the site. It was under Israeli administration (and
had a substantial settler/yeshiva presence) from 1967 to
1995, when pursuant to the Interim Agreement, it was turned
over to PA administration as part of Area A, with provision
for Jewish visits pursuant to Interim Agreement Article V and
Appendix 4.



6. (SBU) From 1995 to 2000, the IDF escorted visitors to
Joseph's Tomb and stationed border policemen inside, in
coordination with PA security. The IDF abandoned the site in
October 2000 (removing sacred Jewish items as they departed)
after the second intifadah broke out and the Tomb came under
attack from militants. Israeli religious and settler groups
subsequently accused Palestinian militants of defacing the
Tomb and painting it light green to assert its status as a
Muslim holy site.



7. (SBU) The IDF restarted infrequent escort of visitors to
the site in 2003, putting the area under curfew and sometimes
temporarily occupying house rooftops to secure the area
during the visits. From 2003 to the present, many Israelis
(mostly settlers) have violated Israeli military orders by
sneaking into Nablus to visit the Tomb without IDF escort.

LAPENN