Israel ‘destroyed’ Islamic archaeological sites in Silwan dig
JERUSALEM – The Israel Antiquities Authority has destroyed several ancient archeological sites and antiquities as a result of a controversial dig in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said Tuesday.
The authority recently began the final stage of archaeological excavations at the site, which is located in the Wadi Silweh area only 20 meters from the walls of the Old City, the foundation said in a statement on Tuesday.
As a result of the excavations, several ancient Islamic archeological sites and antiquities have been destroyed, including a cemetery that dated back to the Abbasid caliphate.
Additionally, the dig has damaged relics that date back to the Jebusite Canaanite era in the second millenium BC, the Al-Aqsa foundation alleged.
The excavations are the continuation of an Israeli project to build a biblical park in the area alongside the City of David archaeological park, and will feature a “museum of Jewish history” and a “Jewish national park.”
The excavation site measures around six dunams (1.5 acres) and runs 20 meters deep in some places.
The excavations are connected by a network of tunnels that “the Israeli occupation has been digging under and around Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the statement said, pointing out that the third-holiest site in Islam is located only 100 meters from the site itself.
The foundation said that the Ir David Foundation — commonly known as Elad — is funding the excavations as part of a plan to build a seven-story building which will serve as a Jewish cultural center.
The excavation site is located on what used to be private Palestinian land owned by the Siyam family from Silwan. The land was confiscated by Israeli authorities for the dig.
Israel frequently permits excavations and archaeological digs in East Jerusalem, specifically around the Al-Aqsa mosque and in the Silwan neighborhood, that threaten the structural integrity of Palestinian homes and holy sites in the area.
Critics charge that the digs search for ancient Jewish ruins at the expense of existing homes, and that Israeli archaeologists often ignore and even damage non-Jewish artifacts.
In 1967, Israel demolished the 800-year-old Moroccan Quarter of Jerusalem, displacing 650 Palestinians and destroying numerous mosques, homes, and holy sites, in order to build a plaza in front of the Western Wall.
Israel also evicted around 6,000 Palestinians from nearby areas in order to massively expand the city’s historical Jewish Quarter.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.