Turks visit Mughrabi excavation

Delegation meets with Wakf, Kotel rabbi; to present official report later.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
A group of Turkish historians and archaeologists inspected on Wednesday the Mughrabi excavation site that has provoked protests by Muslims who accuse Israel of plotting to damage Islamic holy places. Israel allowed the Turkish visit to the site in an attempt to calm fears that the work would harm the nearby compound of Al-Aksa Mosque. The Turkish delegation, accompanied by Turkey's consul to Jerusalem and representatives of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the government body running the dig, wouldn't comment on what they saw. Consul Ercan Ozer said only that the delegation would present a report to the Turkish government, which would publish the results "later." The excavation is meant to pave the way for construction of a new pedestrian walkway up to the compound, replacing one that partially collapsed in a snowstorm three years ago. The beginning of work in early February drew allegations that Israel was planning to harm the compound's Islamic holy sites and sparked Palestinian protests and criticism across the Muslim world, although there was little real violence and no one was seriously hurt. Israel denies that any harm will be caused to the site, which it has controlled since 1967. Wednesday's visit was agreed upon last month, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Turkey. In an effort to ease Muslim fears, Olmert agreed a Turkish delegation could visit the site. A mid-March report on the excavation from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said Israel should have sought the advice of international organizations before it started the archeological work. But it also concluded that the excavations posed no threat to the stability of the site and credited Israel with adhering to "professional standards."