Israel 'must halt' Jerusalem dig

A report by UN experts has called on Israel to halt excavations near Jerusalem's most sacred Islamic site and proceed only under international supervision.

Israel 'must halt' Jerusalem dig

A report by UN experts has called on Israel to halt excavations near Jerusalem's most sacred Islamic site andproceed only under international supervision.

Israel'sarchaeological excavation, taking place 50m from a compound revered by bothMuslims and Jews, have led to protests across the world.

The Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific andCultural Organization (Unesco), whose experts have visited thesite, issued a report on Wednesday questioning a "lack of a clearwork plan setting the limits of the activity, opening the possibility ofextensive and unnecessary excavations".

'Suspend the project'

The Unesco report has called on Israelto suspend the project and draw up a new work plan in consultation withJordanian authorities and the Waqf, a body that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

Israeli archaeologists began excavations at the site onFebruary 7 to salvage artefacts before beginning construction of a walkwayleading up to the complex where the two biblical Jewish Temples once stood.


"The government of Israel should be asked to stopimmediately the archaeological excavations given that the excavations that havebeen undertaken were deemed to be sufficient for the purpose of assessing thestructural conditions of the pathway," the Unesco report states, accordingto officials.

If excavations proceed, Unesco concluded, they should beconducted under international supervision.

Mark Regev, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said theUnesco report "shows clearly that the Israeli restoration work is totallybenign".


Regev said Israeli officials had started a process to"re-engage with the relevant parties in an effort to allay concerns,"but did not say that Israelwould call off the excavations.

Unesco officials did not immediately comment.

Violent protests

Israelsays the dig will do no harm to the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques on thecompound, which overlooks Judaism's Western Wall.

Israel'santiquities authority has placed internet cameras at the site and Ehud Olmert,the Israeli prime minister, has brushed aside fears the dig would harm theMuslim holy site.

The excavations led to violent Muslim protests inEast Jerusalem, which includes the walled Old Citywhere the compound is located.

Israelannexed East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, a movenot recognised internationally.

It considers all of Jerusalemits "eternal and indivisible capital".

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of thestate they aspire to establish in the occupied West Bankand in the Gaza Strip.

Unesco officials visited the site last month.

The UN report says that the rampway should retain "the values ofauthenticity and integrity of the site".

It calls for international team of experts lead by Unesco to oversee theconstruction of the new walkway if it goes ahead.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev claimed the UN report proved Israel wouldnot harm Muslim holy sites.

"This totally supports our stance in that this (work) is benign,"he told Reuters news agency. "This publicly disputes some of the hatefulmessages put out there by extremists for political gain."

The initial excavations sparked off violent Muslim protests in East Jerusalem where the religious compound is located.

Israel occupied EastJerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, a movenot recognised internationally.

A spokesman for the Jerusalemmunicipality has said there would be a public consultation process before anyconstruction works begin.


Agencies
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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