The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has welcomed UNESCO’s adoption of a Jordanian resolution for the protection of the Old City of Jerusalem and the historic path leading to the Mughrabi Gate of Al-Aqsa Sanctuary. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee made the decision at its 37th session being held in Cambodia. A statement from the ministry said that this affirms the need to safeguard the cultural heritage of Jerusalem and its walls.
“Threats to the Old City include Israel’s excavations and settlement construction,” said the ministry, “as well as the effects of the light railway and cable car on archaeological sites.” The statement stressed the need to protect the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa, including the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre not only as sacred places of worship but also integral parts of the world heritage site.
UNESCO member states have been requested by the Palestinian Authority to put pressure on Israel to comply with international law, in particular the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and the 1972 Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The PA described Israeli policies and practices in Jerusalem as “illegal”.
The World Heritage Committee voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting the Jordanian resolution on Jerusalem primarily because of what it described as “Israel’s intransigence and its refusal to reach any compromise formula on the decision of Jerusalem, in addition to its rejection and denial of the commitment it made to facilitate a mission for technical experts to the city of Jerusalem last month”.
UNESCO expressed its deep concern about the continuation of Israeli excavations in and around the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls and requested an immediate end to all such excavations. It added that Israel hasn’t provided the World Heritage Centre with information about the finds from the work.