UNESCO adopts resolution affirming Muslims ties to Jerusalem

AFP , Ahram Online , Tuesday 18 Oct 2016

Al Aqsa Mosque
Al Aqsa Mosque (AP)

The UN cultural agency on Tuesday adopted an Arab-sponsored resolution that affirms Muslim ties to the Old City of east Jerusalem by referring to it only by its Islamic names as "Al-Aqsa Compound" or "Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif."

A spokesman for Paris-based UNESCO said the resolution, which has caused Israel to suspend its cooperation with the agency, was adopted without a new vote after being approved at the committee stage last week.

The resolution, which was passed Thursday at the committee level, is sponsored by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan.

The text, which also denounces Israel for restricting Muslim access to the holy site and for aggression by Israeli occupation forces and Jewish settler groups, has infuriated Israel leading to suspend cooperation with UNESCO Friday saying the resolution denies the "historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem."

Israelis refer to the area that encompasses Al-Aqsa Mosque as the "Temple Mount," saying it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.

Palestine's deputy ambassador to UNESCO, Mounir Anastas, told reporters the resolution "reminds Israel that they are the occupying power in east Jerusalem and it asks them to stop all their violations," including archaeological excavations around religious sites.

UNESCO's draft resolution, entitled "Occupied Palestine," strongly condemns "escalating Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif, and requests Israel, the Occupying Power, to respect the historic status quo and to immediately stop these measures."

In the past year, Israeli authorities allowed increasing numbers of Jewish settlers to access and storm Al-Aqsa compund while restricting Muslims' entrance. 

After Thursday's vote, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the UNESCO resolution, while Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dubbed the resolution "absurd," AFP reported.

On the Gaza Strip, this resolution "deeply deplores the new cycle of violence, going on since October 2015, in the context of the constant aggressions by Israeli settlers and other extremist groups against Palestinian residents, including school children, also asks the Israeli authorities to prevent such aggressions."

Since October 2015, Israel's deadly use of force against Palestinian protests in Gaza and the West Bank has killed 230 Palestinians.

It is the second time this year that UNESCO angered Israel. In April, the organization passed a resolution condemning "Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims' access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque".

Al-Aqsa Compound is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 war. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state, a move never recognised by the international community.

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