UNESCO votes to list ancient Jericho as a World Heritage Site in Palestine

AP , AFP , Sunday 17 Sep 2023

The United Nations' cultural organization conference voted Sunday to list the ancient West Bank city of Jericho as a World Heritage Site in Palestine, a decision likely to anger Israel, which occupies the territory.

 ibn Abd al-Malik
The mosaic is located inside the baths of Hisham s Palace, an eighth-century desert castle constructed during the Ummayad Dynasty by Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. AFP


Jericho is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on earth and is in a part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank that is administered by the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.The listing refers to the Tel es-Sultan archaeological site nearby, which contains ruins dating back to the 9th millennium B.C.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the U.N. World Heritage Committee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under the auspices of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

"The property proposed for nomination is the prehistoric archaeological site of Tell al-Sultan, located outside the antique site of Jericho," UNESCO's assistant director general, Ernesto Ottone.

"There are no Jewish or Christian remains at the site. It's a place of pre-historic remains," a UNESCO diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The site was inscribed following a three-year candidacy "during which no state party raised any objections", he said.

Israel quit the UN organization in 2019 over accusations it fosters an anti-Israel bias.

UNESCO's listing shows that the Tell al-Sultan site is "an integral part of the diverse Palestinian heritage of exceptional human value", Palestinian tourism minister Rula Maayah, who was attending the meeting in Riyadh, said in a statement.

Given Tell al-Sultan's "importance as the oldest fortified city in the world... it deserves to be a World Heritage Site," she said.


President Mahmoud Abbas said UNSCO’s decision is “of utmost importance, one that testifies to the authenticity and history of the Palestinian people.” He affirmed that “the State of Palestine is committed to preserving this unique site for the benefit of mankind.”

Israel quit UNESCO in 2019 over accusations it fosters an anti-Israel bias.

Tel Aviv also objected to UNESCO's acceptance of Palestine as a member state in 2011. But Israel remains a party to the World Heritage Convention, and it sent a delegation to the meeting in Riyadh.

Israel occupied the West Bank, along with Gaza and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 war. The Palestinians reclaims all three occupied territories for their future state.

There have been no serious or substantive peace negotiations in over a decade, and Israel is currently led by the most nationalist and religious government in its history, making any move toward Palestinian statehood nearly unimaginable.

The modern city of Jericho is a major draw for tourism to the Palestinian territories, both because of its historical sites and proximity to the Dead Sea. In 2021, the Palestinian Authority unveiled major renovations to one of the largest mosaics in the Middle East, in a Jericho palace dating back to the 8th century.

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