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Three Israelis wounded by Palestinian fighters in West Bank flashpoint 

At least 64 Palestinians were wounded in the violence according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society
Israeli forces stand guard while Jews pray at Joseph's Tomb in the northern Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus on 16 February 2012. (AFP)
Israeli forces stand guard while Jews pray at Joseph's Tomb in the northern Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus on 16 February 2012 (AFP)

Two Israeli settlers and a senior army commander were lightly wounded on Thursday by Palestinian fighters in an exchange of fire in the occupied West Bank. 

Dozens of settlers guarded by soldiers were being escorted to Joseph's Tomb in the city of Nablus when they came under fire, according to the Israeli army, which then returned fire. 

The officer wounded in the gunfight, regional commander Roi Zweig, was taken for treatment as the army evacuated the settlers after the incident, according to a military statement.   

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said 64 Palestinians were wounded, including 17 hit by live ammunition. 

Translation: Panic at Joseph's Tomb during armed clash with the [Israeli] occupation forces in the eastern region of Nablus.

The gunfight started in the eastern region of Nablus after more than 30 military bulldozers stormed the city to secure the settlers' tour, according to Palestinian reports.

Israeli settlers organise periodic army-protected tours of Joseph's Tomb, which Palestinian residents contest. 

The site has frequently been one of the most violent and heated areas of confrontation in Nablus since settlers began raiding it following the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Both Palestinians and Israelis claim counter narratives about its religious and national significance. 

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Palestinians believe the shrine is the burial site of Sheikh Youssef Dweikat, a cleric who lived in the nearby Balata neighbourhood.

Israeli settlers believe the shrine contains the tomb of the Prophet Joseph, a figure revered in both Islamic and Jewish tradition.

The site is registered as an Islamic endowment at the Palestinian Authority's Department of Endowments in the city of Nablus.

Under the Oslo Accords, the shrine is considered a Jewish holy site under Israeli control, even though it is located in "Area A" - meant to be under full civil and security control by the PA.

The most violent confrontations near the tomb took place during the popular uprising of 1996 and the Second Intifada between 2000-2005. Armed clashes took place in the area, which led to the death of both Palestinians and Israelis.
 
Last month, Palestinian teenager Gaith Yamin was killed by the Israeli army during an army escort of settlers to the tomb. 

The recent escalation around the tomb and Nablus at large comes amid growing settler violence against Palestinians in the city. 

According to UN data, more than 606 Palestinians were injured this year so far in settler-related incidents across the West Bank, of which 217 were in Nablus alone. Around 12 of those injuries in Nablus were bullet wounds, killing one Palestinian.

The new element in the recent confrontations has been the return of shootings targeting Israeli army checkpoints, which have been claimed by the self-styled Nablus Brigade, a new group of armed Palestinians who say they are part of Saraya al-Quds, the military arm of the Islamic Jihad movement.