Israeli archaeologists said on Wednesday they fear priceless relics could be damaged by a mechanical digger being used by Muslim caretakers to carve out a utility trench at one of Jerusalem's holiest shrines.Other articles about Israeli complicity in this crime can be seen here and here. A BBC report is linked to here.
The work is being carried out on the plaza revered by Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and by Jews as the Temple Mount.
"It is appalling that in one of the most important archaeological sites in the country, heavy machinery is used in a barbaric way to dig a ditch 120 meters long and 1.5 meters deep," said Gabriel Barkay, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
He and other members of the Israeli-based Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, have criticized Israel's Antiquities Authority for allowing the Waqf, the Muslim caretakers of the site, to conduct the work.
Dalit Menzin, a spokeswoman for the Antiquities Authority, an Israeli government agency, declined to comment.
Sheikh Abdel al-Azeem Salhab, president of the Waqf Council, which is charged with day-to-day administration of the compound, denied the digging would cause any archaeological damage.
The trench is being dug to replace decades-old electric wiring at the complex, which now houses the al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock Mosques and was the site during biblical times of two Jewish Temples.
Barkay said earth from the trench contained pottery shards dating to the Byzantine period. He cautioned that more relics still underground could be harmed.
Christian, Muslim and Jewish heritage could "fall victim to this heinous act", Barkay said.
It also appears that Israel is violating its own laws by allowing this dig to go forward, not to mention when it limits Jewish access to the Temple Mount. This is from the text of Israel's "Protection of Holy Places Law":
Protection of Holy Places Law, 5727-1967The only explanation is that this government does not recognize any Jewish attachment to the Temple Mount. Which must mean that the Kotel is just a wall with no real significance, if the Temple Mount has no Jewish meaning.
Protection of Holy Places.
1. The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places.
2.(a) Whosoever desecrates or otherwise violates a Holy Place shall be liable to imprisonment for a term. of seven years.
(b) Whosoever does anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings with regard to those places shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.