Israel scraps Jerusalem walkway

Plans for a new walkway to Jerusalem’s holiest site have been scrapped amid concerns about damage to archaeological remains, Israeli officials have said.

Controversial excavation works near the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount in East Jerusalem, required before building work could begin, will therefore end.

The city council is now considering alternatives, such as a smaller bridge.

Initial excavations sparked off violent Muslim protests and raised tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis.

In 1996, work to open a tunnel alongside the compound sparked clashes in which 80 people died.

>>> Plan of the holy sites

And in 2000, the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, began at the mosque following a controversial tour of the site by Israel’s then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

Revered site

The Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) is the holiest site in Judaism and Islam’s third holiest shrine.

Israel has allowed Muslim religious authorities to administer the Haram al-Sharif, but it claims the right to enter at will for security purposes.

Israeli forces can enter the compound through the Moughrabi, or Moors’, Gate, which is high up in the Western Wall and has to be reached by either an earth mound or a walkway.

Last year, the earth mound collapsed after a rainfall and a temporary wooden structure was put up.

The plans for a stronger and more permanent walkway entailed removing the remains of the ancient earth mound down to the bedrock in order to build secure foundations.

But Muslim authorities and archaeologists objected to the excavations, saying they might threaten archaeological remains and damage the compound’s foundations.

In March, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) called for an immediate halt to the work and for a new plan to be drawn up.

Following the criticism, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski decided to return the plans to local and regional committees to look for alternative solutions.

“Several alternatives to the bridge that are more in fitting to the area and that will not damage the archaeological site will be submitted,” a spokesman for the Jerusalem Municipality said.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, a move not recognised internationally.

Source: BBC NEWS


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