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Israeli-Palestinian violence erupts in West Bank on eve of Flag March

The clashes in the Palestinian city follow a cease-fire between the Israeli military and Gaza-based armed groups and come ahead of the controversial Jerusalem Flag March.

Several Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces during a Jewish religious excursion to the West Bank city of Nablus in the 24 hours. 

On Tuesday night, thousands of Jewish Israeli worshippers visited Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. Jews, Christians and Muslims believe the Hebrew prophet Joseph is buried there. The visit came a year after local Palestinians vandalized the site amid clashes with the Israeli military.

The Palestinian Authority’s WAFA news agency reported on Wednesday morning that six Palestinians were injured by Israeli gunfire early during the Israelis' visit to the tomb. Five were hit by rubber bullets and one with a live round.

The Israel Defense Forces said early Wednesday morning that people threw stones and explosives and shot at them while they were escorting the worshippers to the tomb. The IDF returned fire in response, they said in a tweet.

Background: There have been a particularly high number of clashes between Israeli forces and armed Palestinians in the West Bank this year. The Gaza-based groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have a presence in the territory, as does the newer Lion’s Den group.

On Saturday, Egypt brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Islamic Jihad following days of Israeli strikes throughout Gaza and hundreds rockets fired into Israel. Thirty-three Palestinians and one Israeli were killed during the fighting.

The cease-fire in Gaza is holding but clashes in the West Bank are continuing, particularly in Nablus. On Saturday, two Palestinian gunmen were shot dead by Israeli forces in the city. On Monday, another Palestinian was killed during an Israeli military raid, according to Israeli and Palestinian media reports.

WAFA also reported on an Israeli raid in Nablus’ old city on Sunday. Nablus is located in Area A of the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has full control.

Know more: In April, the Lion’s Den executed a Palestinian man in Nablus for allegedly collaborating with Israel. The killing was indicative of decreasing trust of the Palestinian Authority, Ahmad Melhem reported for Al-Monitor from Ramallah last month.

What's next: Jewish Israeli nationalists plan to hold the annual Jerusalem Flag March on Thursday. The controversial parade involves marching through the city's Muslim Quarter. Israeli police are bracing for the possibility of violence following threats from Hamas, according to The Times of Israel. 

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