Monday, November 19, 2007

Turkish archaeologists harshly criticised Israeli excavation: report

Source: AFP via Yahoo! News

ANKARA (AFP) - A team of Turkish experts harshly criticised a controversial archaeological dig in Jerusalem undertaken by Israel, according to a report published Friday in the Turkish daily Today's Zaman.

Turkish experts visited the site because the Ayyubid, Mameluke and Ottoman dynasties ruled in the area successively between the 12th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

According to the Turkish team, "the ongoing activities give the impression that they are a planned and systematically implemented effort which aims to destroy the values associated with cultural assets and the sources of information of these cultures," the English-language daily said, citing the actual report.

In February, Israel began excavation work on a pathway leading from the Western (Wailing) Wall to the compound of the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, eliciting outrage in the Muslim world and prompting UNESCO to call for an immediate halt to the work.

Published in July but kept secret by Turkish authorities in order not to irritate Israel, according to Today's Zaman, the document was written by the team of architects and archaeologists who visited the site last March.

"It is clearly seen that if appropriate measures are not taken in the excavations performed by the Israeli authorities, no data or remains (from the Ayyubid, Mameluke and Ottoman periods) will survive," according to the report.

The Jerusalem mayor's office decided to suspend work on the project on February 12, but failed to appease Muslim authorities, which asserted that the dig, while not under the Al-Aqsa mosque itself, could harm its foundation.

Israel put off resumption of the dig again last month.

The site of Al-Aqsa mosque is also revered by Jews as the location of their ancient temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

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