WARSAW, Poland: The UNESCO World Heritage committee has put the West Bank city of Hebron on its list of world heritage in danger.
The decision was taken Friday in Krakow, Poland, on a proposal from the Palestinian side that has drawn angry reaction from Israel, whose ambassador left the session.
The decision draws the world’s attention to the situation in Hebron, which has sites that are holy for both Jews and Muslims.
The UN’s cultural arm voted 12 to three — with six abstentions — in a secret ballot to give heritage status to Hebron in the occupied West Bank, which is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli colonists.
Last month, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) asked the Unesco World Heritage Committee to declare Al Ebrahimi Mosque and the entire Old City of Hebron, south of the West Bank, as an international heritage site, which would put massive pressure on Israel to transfer control of the area to the Palestinians.
Hifzi Abu Snainah, who heads Al Ebrahimi Mosque, said then that the move could bring the area to the forefront of the international agenda. The PNA plans to take advantage of a clause in Unesco regulations to fast-track the process on the grounds that the sites are endangered.
Abu Snainah says the mosque and the Old City of Hebron are facing destruction by the Israeli occupying force, which has been implementing systematic plans to take over the mosque and seize the city.
Unesco Heritage Committee
He said Al Ebrahimi Mosque was a purely Muslim property that should be under undisputed Palestinian Muslim control.
Unesco Heritage Committee The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Heritage Committee has 21 member countries including Finland, Poland, Portugal, Croatia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Angola and Tanzania.
According to the Israeli Ynet news site, the committee’s composition is problematic for Israel.
To counter the heritage site move, Israel would have to mobilise at least one-third of the voting countries in its favour, which is seen as an impossible task.
In 2012 and 2014, the PNA received tremendous support from Arab and Muslim country members of the Unesco Heritage Committee, when it declared the Church of the Nativity and the Battir terraces in Bethlehem as world heritage sites.
Al Ebrahimi Mosque is considered to be the fourth-most important religious site in Islam.
It houses the tombs of Abraham and his wife Sarah, and Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.
Since Israel occupied the West Bank during the Mideast Six-Day War, Al Ebrahimi Mosque has been a key Israeli target, with Palestinian access being severely restricted.
According to Abu Snainah, the occupation forces deny Palestinians the right to call for prayers at the mosque 50 times a month on average.