RAMALLAH, October 26, 2016 (WAFA) – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted on Wednesday on a resolution reaffirming the status quo at Al Aqsa Mosque compound as a Muslim holy site of worship.
Palestinians applauded the UNESCO vote and called on Israel to respect the status quo of the mosque compound and stop provocative acts against it.
The resolution, proposed by Kuwait, Lebanon, Tunisia, used the Muslim term “Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif” to refer to the compound located in Jerusalem’s Old City, a step that angered Israel which wanted to include the Jewish term “Temple Mount” to it.
The resolution also deplored Israeli measures and policies in Jerusalem and particularly at the mosque which jeopardized the right of Muslims to worship at their mosque.
The resolution further reaffirmed the necessity to respect and safeguard the integrity, authenticity and cultural heritage of Al-Aqsa Mosque /Al-Haram Al-Sharif, as reflected in the Status Quo, as a Muslim Holy Site of worship and as an integral part of a World Cultural Heritage site.
Ten member states supported the resolution, while only two opposed it and eight countries abstained. One member state representative was absent.
The resolution said that “safeguarding of the authenticity, integrity and cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem on both sides of its Walls, shall in any way affect the relevant United Nations resolutions and decisions, in particular the relevant Security Council resolutions on the legal status of Jerusalem.”
It expressed concern at the damage by Israel of some of the historic locations and property such as the ceramics atop of the main gates of the Dome of the Rock and the damage of the historic gates and windows of the Qibli Mosque inside Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif as well as the damage of Umayyad, Ottoman and Mamluk remains of the site of Mughrabi Gate Pathway.
The resolution focused on a plan for the so called “Kedem Center” a visitors’ centre near the southern wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which severally affects the visual integrity and the authentic character of the site and the archeological demolitions and excavations in and around the Mughrabi Gate Ascent.
“It deplored an Israeli plan to build a two-line cable car system in East Jerusalem, the construction of the so called “Liba House” project in the Old City of Jerusalem, the demolition and new construction of the so-called Strauss Building, and the project of the Western Wall elevator, the digging of a Mamluk structure beneath the Western Wall, the excavations and construction of new levels underneath the Western Wall,” said the resolution.
Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in reaction to the vote that “Israel‘s Illegal attempts to change the identity of Occupied East Jerusalem, including its Christian and Muslim traditions, have been ongoing since its occupation of the city in 1967.”
He said Palestine and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan have been doing everything possible, through diplomatic channels, in order to “preserve the status quo of the historical Holy Sites in the city in line with the internationally recognized status quo arrangement and all international resolutions and treaties.”
Erekat criticized Israel’s “orchestrated campaign” to legitimize the annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem “through the use of archeological claims and distortion of facts.”
“Contrary to what the Israeli government claims, the resolution that was voted by UNESCO aims at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam,” he said.
Erekat explained that the resolution calls for respecting the status quo of its religious sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound “that continues to be threatened by the systematic incitement and provocative actions of the Israeli government and extremist Jewish groups.”