Palestinian leadership has welcomed a new resolution passed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Tuesday declaring practices by “Israeli occupying authorities,” in East Jerusalem’s old city “illegal”.
The resolution, sponsored by Jordan, was approved during a session in Krakow, Poland with ten countries voting for, three against, and three in abstention.
Referring to Israel as the “occupying power,” the resolution condemned what it called “illegal” practices by the Israeli authorities excavating and altering the Old City region of Jerusalem.
Palestinian officials have called Israel’s ongoing actions to alter the old city, often targeting important mosques in the area, their attempt to “Judaize” the city.
Jerusalem’s Old City was added to the World Heritage Site List in 1981.
“UNESCO’s decision is a clear message to the international community that it doesn’t recognize the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and its measures to Judaize the city,” Rula Ma’ay’aa, the Palestinian National Authority Minister of Tourism and Antiquities told Xinhua.
The Old City is home to al-Aqsa Mosque which is among the most sacred sites for Muslims in the world. Israeli occupying authorities frequently issue excavation permits in the immediate vicinity of the Mosque, for “archeological” purposes, that have resulted in damage to the Mosque compound.
UNESCO has previously adopted 19 measures recognizing the historic status of East Jerusalem prior to its occupation by Israeli forces in 1967.
The measures have provoked anger from Israeli officials, with Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon saying “nothing is more disgraceful than UNESCO declaring” Israel an occupier.
Palestine is also seeking UNESCO recognition of the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West-Bank, as being a site in danger of destruction.
“We believe the Old City of Hebron has significant universal value for the people,” Omar Awadallah, the head of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry’s UN Department said. “From all the practices in the Old City by the occupying power its very clear they want to demolish any connection of the Palestinian people to this place and falsify or change the current cultural sites.”
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