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Anger grows over Israel’s controversial al-Quds dig in presence of US officials

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Senator Lindsey Graham (From L) attend the opening of an ancient road underneath the Palestinian Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem al-Quds on June 30, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Palestinians and several organizations have condemned the inauguration of a highly contentious tunnel built by the Israeli regime at an archaeological site in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds and the attendance of American officials at the event.

On Sunday, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt along with Sara Netanyahu, wife of the Israeli Prime Minister, wielded sledgehammers to break open the so-called “Path of Pilgrims,” which lies underneath the Palestinian Silwan neighborhood.

 “Were there any doubts about the accuracy, the wisdom, the propriety of President Trump recognizing Jerusalem (al-Quds) as the capital of Israel, I certainly think this lays all doubts to rest,” he said.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at the opening ceremony of an ancient road underneath the Palestinian Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem al-Quds on June 30, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

In a statement issued on Monday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned “the colonialist plans to replace the existing reality in occupied Jerusalem (al-Quds) and the environs of the Old City.”

It also denounced the presence of American officials at the ceremony as a hostile act against the Palestinians.

“The administration of President Donald Trump proves day by day its ... unlimited affiliation to the colonial settlement project led by the extremist right in the state of the occupation,” it added.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) also slammed the US officials’ participation in the event, saying Friedman and Greenblatt “were not American diplomats, they were extremist fanatic Israeli settlers.”

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said the pair had hurled insults at international law “by blessing a project of settlers that has dispossessed dozens of Palestinian families nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.”

He further called on all Arab and Muslim leaders to condemn in strongest terms the provocations of Greenblatt and Friedman and the threats their actions pose to the Palestinians and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The tunnel, he added, is “a settlement project” based on “a lie that has nothing to do with history.” Israelis say the now-subterranean path served as a pilgrimage route to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount, some 2,000 years ago.

In addition, the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement in a statement Tuesday described Friedman’s participation in the ceremony as “aggressive behavior that violates all diplomatic norms and puts the international laws at risk.”

“This criminal act reflects the US position, which totally supports the Israeli occupation,” it added.

The resistance group also held those who joined a recent US-sponsored Bahrain conference responsible for Washington’s “disdain for Jerusalem (al-Quds) and its holy sites.”

The workshop, meant to promote a “deal” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was held in Manama on June 25-26 despite a Palestinian boycott.

Arab League, Al-Azhar join Palestinians

Moreover, the Arab League condemned Israel’s opening of the so-called “Road of Pilgrims” as a flagrant violation of international law.

Saeed Abu Ali, Arab League’s assistant secretary general for Palestine and occupied Arab lands, said the participation of American officials in the inauguration of the tunnel proves the Trump administration’s “absolute bias and full adoption of these settlement projects in violation of international consensus and legitimacy.”

He also warned of the serious consequences of continued Israeli excavations in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

Similarly, Egypt’s Al-Azhar, which is the foremost religious institution for Sunni Muslims, criticized Israel’s attempts to alter the identity of Jerusalem al-Quds and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In a statement, Al-Azhar urged all countries to adopt decisive positions in order to stop Israel’s repeated disregard for the rights of the Palestinian people, their land and holy sites.

It further reiterated its firm opposition to any measures that would infringe the rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

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