The Palestinians on Friday overwhelmingly welcomed UNESCO’s decision to add Hebron’s Old City including the Tomb of Patriarchs, which Muslims call the Ibrahimi Mosque, to its list of world heritage sites.
Palestinain Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called the decision “a success in the diplomatic battle Palestine is fighting on all fronts.” “Despite the fierce Israeli campaign, spreading of lies, the distortion and falsification of facts regarding Palestinian rights, the world approved our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque as a world heritage site under Palestinian sovereignty,” Maliki told Wafa, the official PA news site, in a statement.The UNESCO decision does not explicitly state if Hebron’s Old City is under Palestinian sovereignty. However, a list of world heritage sites on UNESCO’s website refers to Hebron’s Old City as being in Palestine.PA President Mahmoud Abbas alluded to the UNESCO decision as an “accomplishment.”“Thanks to calm Palestinian diplomacy and the support of our people, brothers, and friends in the world,” UNESCO approved Hebron as a world heritage site, Abbas said in statement following a meeting with the head of the Tunisian parliament Muhammad Ennaceur in Tunis.Despite American and Israeli protests, the Palestinians joined UNESCO in October 2011. Since then, the UN body has inscribed three sites in the Palestinian territories on its list of world heritage sites: The Church of Nativity, the site where Christians believe Jesus was born; Battir, a village which features Roman-era water systems; and now Hebron’s Old City.Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, praised UNESCO for its decision.“UNESCO’s vote to include Hebron on its world heritage sites’ list is another affirmation of our full right to Hebron and all the Palestinian land,” Hamas spokesman Hazim Qassim said in a statement. “The voting process reveals the falsity of the Israeli narrative and the lie of its propaganda; all the occupation’s attempts to upend facts will not succeed in the face of our people holding onto its right to its land.”In a secret ballot, 12 UNESCO members voted in favor of including Hebron’s Old City on the organization’s list of world heritage sites, whereas three rejected it and six others abstained.Unlike the Palestinians, Israeli leaders blasted the UNESCO decision, saying that it denies Jewish connections’ to Hebron.“This is another delusional UNESCO decision,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “They decided the Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site – that it is not Jewish.”Netanyahu was furious in October 2016 when UNESCO passed a separate decision on Jerusalem.PA Tourism Ministry Spokesman Jarees Qumsieh on Saturday told The Jerusalem Post that his ministry hopes to include more sites in the Palestinian territories on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.Qumsieh said that deliberations to add the Tell al-Sultan archeological site in Jericho to the world heritage sites’ list have already commenced.
UNESCO declares the Cave of the Patriarchs as Palestinian, angering Israel (Reuters)