The destruction of 41 mosques over the last five weeks during Israel’s military operation in Gaza is a war crime, the Palestinian Authority Tourism and Antiquities Ministry charged on Thursday.
It added that another 120 mosques and shrines were partially destroyed.
PA Tourism and Antiquities Minister Rula Ma’ayah called on the United Nations, particularly the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and its World Heritage Committee to condemn the military targeting of cultural, religious and natural heritage sites as a war crime and a violation of human rights. His ministry said that some of the destroyed and damaged sites were to be on the PA’s list that it wants to see inscribed on the World Heritage List.
This includes the partial destruction of Anthedon Harbor, Gaza’s first known sea port, which is 3,000 years old.
The IDF did not comment on the matter. But Israel, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has in general stated that Hamas has stored weapons in mosques. The IDF has also in past charge that Hamas has dug tunnels underneath mosques or used them as a base from which to launch rockets.
Last year Al Monitor – the DC-based news website on the Middle East – ran an article that charged that Hamas had expanded the harbor for military purposes.
“The military wing of the Islamic movement of Hamas, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, bulldozed a part of the ancient Anthedon Harbor in northern Gaza along the Mediterranean Sea,” Al-Monitor said. “The Brigades damaged the harbor in order to expand its military training zone, which was initially opened on the location in 2002.”
But the PA Tourism Ministry, focused solely on Israel in its call to the international community and UNESCO.
It claimed that the harm to that site as well as Israeli destruction of others, was a violation of international agreements, such as the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention and Protocol of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
It urged “the member states of UNESCO and the director-general of UNESCO to take immediate measures to stop the aggression on civilians and the intentional destruction of cultural and natural heritage in the Gaza Strip.”
The destruction and or harm caused to these sites, “is a great loss for humanity,” the PA Tourism Ministry said.