Israel says foils plan to attack Jews at shrine

 A Jewish worshipper praying in Jerusalem's Old City.
A Jewish worshipper praying in Jerusalem's Old City.REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli authorities on Tuesday said they had foiled plans to attack Jews at the Joseph's Tomb shrine in Nablus in the occupied West Bank and arrested four Palestinians.

The suspects allegedly planned to plant home-made bombs at the site and open fire on visiting Jews, the Shin Bet domestic security agency said in a statement.

Authorities identified an alleged Islamic Jihad member named Rafat Mohamed Darwish whom they accused of directing and arming militants for the planned attack.

They alleged that Darwish served as a link between the Islamic Jihad branches in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the two Palestinian territories separated by Israel.

Israel designates Islamic Jihad a terrorist group and blamed it for four rockets fired last week from Syria into northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A hunger strike by Palestinian detainee Mohammed Allan, said to be a member of Islamic Jihad, has also led to controversy in recent weeks.

The protest sparked calls for Israel to curb its use of a form of detention without trial for six-month periods that are renewable indefinitely.

Joseph's Tomb is revered by Jews, Muslims, Christians and Samaritans, and the Israeli military allows Jews to visit as part of organised pilgrimages, with the shrine in an area under Palestinian control.

Ultra-orthodox and nationalist Jews regularly try to visit the shrine without approval, however. Many Jews believe the tomb to be the final resting place of the biblical figure in the Old Testament.