7 October 2000

Temporary Evacuation of Joseph’s Tomb by the IDF and tts Transfer to the Palestinian Authority
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)

IDF forces temporarily evacuated tonight the Border Police unit that guarded "Joseph’s Tomb" as well as holy articles and equipment at the scene.

This is a decision of the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Mr. Ehud Barak, following the recommendation of the Chief of the IDF General Staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the IDF and the Head of the Israel Security Agency.

The responsibility of guarding the area was handed over to the Palestinian forces that obligated to keep the integrity of the site and prevent any harm to it.

"Joseph’s Tomb" is a Jewish site that is also used as a Yeshiva. Therefore, special arrangements have been made regarding it in the Oslo Agreements since it is in an A territory, which means that it is under Palestinian control.

This evacuation took place willingly on both sides in order to keep human lives and to contribute to the decrease in tension and violence in the area.

During the evacuation, a Border policeman was lightly wounded by gunfire shot towards the force. The policeman was evacuated by helicopter to receive medical treatment in hospital.

Background:

The Tomb of the Patriarch Joseph is a recognized Jewish holy site, which also houses a yeshiva (a Jewish religious seminar). During the last few days massive shooting and attacks by Palestinians took place against the border policemen securing this site.

During these incidents a border policemen was wounded. The agreement between the IDF and the Palestinian security forces specified that it was the Palestinians’ responsibility to evacuate the wounded policeman. The Palestinian forces could not evacuate the wounded policeman because of the heavy rioting at the site. As a result of the delay, the wounded Israeli policeman, Yusuf Madhat, died.

The shooting by Palestinians at Joseph’s Tomb and the hindering of the evacuation of the wounded policeman are a violation of all international agreements and ad hoc understandings.

Since the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreements in Washington, in September 1995, the PA has been responsible for the security of the Jewish holy sites in Area A. The agreements also stated that joint patrols in the area would allow free access and safe use of the site, and Israel would also had the right to place guards inside the Tomb compound. The events are in clear violation of the PA’s commitment in the Interim Agreement to protect the Tomb. The site was attacked with live fire, stones, and firebombs. Despite this, those present in the compound succeeded in withstanding the attacks, and stopped several attempts by armed Palestinians to break in.

Acting on the recommendation of the Chief of Staff and the Chief of the General Security Service, the Prime Minister (who is also the Minister of Defense), decided, on October 6, to temporarily evacuate Joseph’s Tomb, leaving it under the protection and full responsibility of the PA. The decision to evacuate the Tomb was based on the desire of both sides to avoid bloodshed and lower the level of violence in the area.

The PA pledged to return the Tomb to its original state after the evacuation, and after the violence had settled down. They also pledged to look after the site and prevent any vandalism. This pledge was brazenly violated about two hours after the evacuation, when a Palestinian mob entered the Tomb compound and began to systematically destroy everything in sight, including all remnants of the yeshiva, the furniture, and books that were left behind. The Palestinian police failed to prevent this any of these violent activities, despite their pledge to guard the Tomb. The damage to this holy site resulted in the further escalation of the situation, which was already tense anyway.

   
 Temporary Evacuation of Joseph-s Tomb by the IDF and its Transfer to the Palestinian Authority-07-Oct-2000
 Temporary Evacuation of Joseph-s Tomb by the IDF and its Transfer to the Palestinian Authority-07-Oct-2000
Outbreak of Violence in Jerusalem and the Territories – Sept/Oct 2000