Olmert rejects ending al-Aqsa dig

Israel's prime minister has rejected a call from his defence minister to halt excavation work near Jerusalem's most important holy site, an Israeli newspaper reports.

Olmert rejects ending al-Aqsa dig
Ehud Olmert, the Israeli leader, said he would allowed the dig near the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem to continue after the appeal from Amir Peretz, Israel's defence chief.
"A thorough examination of the matter would reveal that nothing about the work under way will harm anyone, and there is no truth in the contentions against the work," the Ha'aretz newspaper quoted Olmert's office as saying.
Arab states have said the work could damage al-Aqsa's foundations.

For years the Islamic Movement has waged a campaign to "save" al-Aqsa, the main mosque in the compound in Israeli-occupied and annexed east Jerusalem and the third holiest site in Islam.


The Israeli defence ministry did not immediately comment on Thursday's report and Olmert's office was not available for a response.


Ceasefire threatened


Tensions have flared between Israel and the Palestinians over the Israeli excavation, which started on Tuesday.


Palestinians said a ceasefire in Gaza with Israel could unravel if the work continued.


Ha'aretz said Peretz wrote to Olmert on Wednesday calling for the immediate stop to the work, citing security concerns.


The Fatah faction of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said any damage caused to the mosque by the dig work would "lead to a termination" of a November ceasefire deal operating in Gaza, and spark a "volcano of anger".


Israel say the excavations are part of a search for ancient artefacts beneath the compound, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount, would not harm the sacred site in Jerusalem's walled Old City.


"I turn to Olmert to think anew," Sheikh Abdallah Nimr Darwish, head of Israel's Islamic Movement, told Israel Radio.


"Whoever wants to speak about peace does not excavate anywhere in the area around the holy al-Aqsa mosque," Darwish said, referring to Olmert's planned February 19 peace talks with Abbas and Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16