Following its admission to UNESCO, the Palestinian Authority is planning to pursue Israel legally in international forums for allegedly stealing Palestinian antiquities and changing the Arab and Islamic character of holy sites in Jerusalem, Palestinian officials said over the weekend.

“Now that we have joined UNESCO, we will take Israel to court for systematically destroying and forging Arab and Islamic culture in Jerusalem,” said Hatem Abdel Qader, former PA minister for Jerusalem affairs. “We are also seeking to file lawsuits against Israel in international courts and bodies for stealing Arab and Islamic antiquities and assaulting Islamic and Christian holy sites.”

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The Palestinians were accepted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on October 31.

Abdel Qader told the London-based Al-Quds Al- Arabi newspaper that Israeli renovations of Jerusalem’s Old City walls and excavation work in the vicinity of al-Aksa Mosque were part of an attempt to change the Islamic and Arabic character of the city and steal and destroy antiquities.

Abdel Qader said the Palestinians were also planning legal action against Israel for its intention to demolish the Mughrabi Bridge at the southern entrance to the Temple Mount.

The Jerusalem Municipality announced recently that it would demolish the bridge due to safety concerns and in spite of the Islamic Wakf’s objection.

The reasons cited were the minor earthquake that occurred earlier this year, snowfall and natural erosion that have made the wooden structure unstable and flammable.

The Palestinians are also planning to ask UNESCO to declare several sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank international heritage sites belonging to Palestine, not Israel.

PA Minister of Tourism Khuloud Daibes confirmed that the Palestinians planned to file lawsuits against Israel for alleged theft of antiquities.

She said the PA was now working toward “restoring” stolen antiquities that were allegedly transferred to Israel in violation of international law. The Palestinians are coordinating their moves with the Arab countries and other countries that voted in favor of the membership bid at UNESCO, Daibes said.

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