Israel fumes over Unesco resolution on excavations in Old City

Indo Asian News Service

Jerusalem, May 3 (IANS) Israel has condemned a Unesco resolution that criticises the country's excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, a flashpoint area holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike.

The Unesco resolution sponsored by Arab countries on Tuesday addressed Israel as the "occupying power" and urges it to stop "persistent excavations, tunnelling, works and projects in East Jerusalem", Xinhua news agency reported.

Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it in a move that has never been internationally recognised.

"We denounce Unesco and uphold the truth. There is no other people in the world for whom Jerusalem is as holy and important as for the Jewish people," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that Unesco was "trying to deny this simple truth".

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry welcomed the resolution, saying the decision pointed to "the need to confront the dangers posed by the illegal practices of Israel, the occupying power ... which threaten the cultural and historical integrity of these invaluable sites".

The resolution, tabled by Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, Oman, and Sudan, was passed 22-10 with 23 abstentions.

The resolution deals with Israel's archaeological excavations in the Old City, home to Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock shrine and ancient Jewish temples.

Israel's work near and around the site often increases tensions in Jerusalem.

Last year, Unesco created an uproar in Israel after it passed a resolution that does not mention Jewish ties to the holy sites in Jerusalem. Israel ceased cooperation with the organisation in response.