PCHR: Stop the destruction of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem

Palestinians demonstrate during a protest in the West Bank city of Tulkarem, against Israeli excavations near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, February 7, 2007. (MaanImages/Mouid Ashqar)

PCHR calls upon the international community represented by governments and international organizations, specifically UNESCO, to intervene immediately to put an immediate end to Israeli destruction of Islamic holy sites in occupied Jerusalem, especially around Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Centre appeals to these bodies to take immediate action to stop Israeli excavations, and to provide protection for Palestinians and their rights, especially their cultural and religious rights; and provide protection for Islamic holy sites, which are an important part of human culture and civilization. The destruction of Islamic holy sites constitutes a flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law and International Law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), which prohibits the destruction of civilian properties.

It is noted that Israeli bulldozers started to demolish a hill, a wooden bridge, and two rooms at the foot of the hill, which are property of the Islamic Waqf. The properties lead to the Magharba Gate, one of the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque that constitutes an integral part of the mosque. The demolition activities directly threaten Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings. It is noted that the Israeli archeological authority announced that it started the destruction activities to establish a bridge connecting Al-Buraq area with Al-Aqsa Mosque. The destruction is a prelude to erecting support pillars for the bridge on the road leading to Magharba gate. At the same time, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) prevented the Islamic Waqf, which supervises Islamic holy sites in occupied Jerusalem, from conducting any renovation activities on the hill, which is a component of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

PCHR warns against the consequences of IOF attacks on Islamic and Christian holy sites in occupied Jerusalem. These attacks include passing legislation to annex the city, ethnic cleansing of the city’s Palestinian population, confiscation of Palestinian property, establishing and expanding Jewish settlements, and transgressions against holy sites through demolitions and excavations in Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Centre reminds the international community that similar attacks on the civil, political, and cultural rights led to the eruption of a mass popular uprising in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) at the end of September 2000.

PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), which prohibits the destruction of civilian properties including religious and archeological sites that are a component of human culture, to pressure Israeli occupation authorities to immediately stop all actions that threaten Islamic holy sites in occupied Jerusalem. The Centre calls upon UNESCO to fulfill its legal obligation towards the protection of Islamic holy sites from IOF crimes, and to work to stop all forms of demolition and excavations by the Israeli archeological authority.

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