ISRAEL EXPEDITES AL-AQSA DIGS

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered expediting controversial excavations near Al-Maghariba Gate, one of Al-Aqsa Mosque’s 14 gates, two days after the Annapolis peace conference, Israeli Haaretz daily revealed on December 17.

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered expediting controversial excavations near Al-Maghariba Gate, one of Al-Aqsa Mosque’s 14 gates, two days after the Annapolis peace conference, Israeli Haaretz daily revealed on December 17.
The government has instructed the Israel Antiquities Authorities (IAA) to complete the work “as soon as possible,” allocating a total of INS17.5 million ($4 million) to complete the project.
Israeli bulldozers started in February demolishing the wooden bridge leading to Al-Maghariba Gate and two underground rooms, sparking widespread protests from Palestinians, Muslims and international archaeological and cultural bodies. Israel claims the works intend to strengthen an access ramp to the Al-Maghariba Gate, which was damaged during a snow storm two years ago. But archaeologists warn that levelling the mound upon which the wooden bridge is built would threaten the foundation of Al-Aqsa Mosque Islam’s third holiest, and open the way for more Israeli excavations.

UNESCO has urged Israel to halt the excavations, insisting that the process should be supervised by a team of international experts. A team of Turkish experts who had examined the excavations also recommended that Israel stop work immediately.