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Minister: Israel’s excavations are damaging Al-Aqsa

The Dome of the Rock Mosque part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem. [Mahfouz Abu Turk/Apa Images]
The Dome of the Rock Mosque part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem. [Mahfouz Abu Turk/Apa Images]

Sinkholes which appeared in the occupied Silwan neighbourhood south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound are proof “of the ongoing attempts by the [Israeli] occupation authorities” to destroy the mosque, the minister of waqf and religious affairs said on Sunday.

Sheikh Yousif Ideis warned that daily excavations being carried out under the compound are damaging the mosque and could lead to a “religious war in the region”, which he said the Israeli state was igniting every day.

Ideis’ statements came as the Islamic-Christian Committee to Defend Jerusalem and Holy Sites said that sinkholes occurred in the neighbourhood of Silwan south of on Sunday morning, blaming them on the Israeli excavations in the area.

The committee’s public secretary, Hana Issa, said that a number of sinkholes have occurred in the neighbourhood in past years, particularly on Wadi Al-Hilweh street.

Ideis argued that the Israeli measures represented “obvious violations” of resolutions established by international bodies, the latest being an UNESCO resolution passed last October denouncing Israeli violations in the occupied territory, mainly focusing on policies around Al-Aqsa, which the agency claimed increase tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Jewish visitors, while sparking fears among Palestinians that Israel could further deny their right to access Al-Aqsa.

The resolution notably expressed “deep concern” regarding the illegal demolitions of Umayyad, Ottoman and Mamluk remains, as well as other intrusive works and excavations in and around the compound, and called upon Israel to halt the measures according to the state’s obligations as an occupying power.

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