UNESCO: Israel must respect Al Aqsa mosque
A masked Palestinian wearing a Hamas headband takes a burnt carpet out of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City during clashes at the compound. (AFP/File)
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UNESCO chief Irina Bokova's call for "respect and dialogue" came after Israel reacted with outrage to the UN body's adoption of a resolution on "Occupied Palestine" on Thursday.
The resolution refers to Israel several times as the "occupying power," while referring to the holy site by only its Arab name and criticizes Tel Aviv for "excavations and works" in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).
It also urges Israel to stop "aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims' access" to their holy site.
"Jerusalem is a Holy Land of the three monotheistic religions, a place of dialogue for all Jewish, Christian and Muslim people. Nothing should be undertaken to alter its integrity and authenticity," Bokova said in a statement.
On Saturday, Israel's hardline prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the United Nations of "rewriting history." "This is yet another absurd UN decision," he said.
Muslims regard the compound — which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock — as the third-holiest site in Islam.
The site has been the focal point of repeated clashes amid contentions by Palestinian leaders that Israel plans to change its status quo.
At least 210 Palestinians, including children and women, have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since the beginning of last October. Some 29 Israelis have also been killed.
The UNESCO resolution was approved by 33 states, including France, Russia, Spain and Sweden.
Seventeen countries abstained while six voted against including the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Other condemnations of Israel brought forth in the resolution include the regime's blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The resolution also accuses Israel of "planting fake Jewish graves in Muslim cemeteries" and of "the continued conversion of many Islamic and Byzantine remains into the so-called Jewish ritual baths or into Jewish prayer places."
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