Israelis dig tunnel near Temple Mount
Patrick Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent. He was awarded Foreign Commentator of the Year at the 2013 Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards.
Friday 10 March 1995
Palestinians in the old city of Jerusalem expressed anger yesterday after Israeli workers were discovered digging a tunnel under the Muslim quarter, just to the north of the Temple Mount.
The tunnel was found late on Wednesday when shopkeepers on the Via Dolorosa - down which Jesus is believed to have carried the cross - heard digging underneath a stone ramp leading to the entrance of the ancient Umariyya boys' school. "People heard sounds," Khalid Dweik, who owns a shop near by, said. "They took stones out of the side of the ramp. Four people who were working there ran away."
A team of Israeli workers, guarded by a squad of soldiers, was working hurriedly yesterday to cement back stones removed the night before. At first they refused to speak. Their leader, wearing a blue shirt, said: "I have no interest in talking to you."
Later Amnon Lorch, an Israeli lawyer who is chairman of the East Jerusalem Development Association, confirmed his men are excavating a tunnel connecting with another Israeli-built tunnel that runs north from the Western Wall along the side of Temple Mount. The discovery is arousing fears among Muslims that Israel is conducting a subterranean takeover of the old city of Jerusalem.
Adnan Husseini, director of the Waqf religious endowment, which owns much of the property in the city, said yesterday: "Officials had told us digging had stopped. They want to take over everything." He said Israelis were applying chemicals to the bed rock to make it easier to excavate.
The issue is so sensitive because the new tunnel extends the network of underground tunnels dug by Israel in the Eighties - and now open to the public - beneath Palestinian houses and institutions standing along the Western Wall or Haram al-Sharif.
On the great 34-acre masonry platform, once the site of the Jewish Temple, now stand the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque, making it the second most important place of pilgrimage in the Muslim world.
Mr Lorch says the Israelis are excavating a tunnel which is 2,100 years old and was originlly discovered by a British archaeologist, Charles Warren, in the last century. He added, however, that he did not know who had built the original one and it might be a natural formation. He also criticised local people for removing stones from the side of the ramp which "doesn't belong to the people".
Mr Husseini says he cannot find out who is behind the excavation because "the decision-makers hide in their houses".
The East Jerusalem Development Association is two-thirds owned by the Ministry of Tourism and one-third by Jerusalem Municipality.
An existing tunnel caused the front steps of the al-Waqf building itself to subside several feet, according to Mr Husseini. Another tunnel dug into Temple Mount itself was discovered when the Muslim authorities found water had drained out of an ancient cistern.
Last night the Ministry of Tourism categorically denied there are plans to open the tunnel, but said that it had been there for millennia. A spokeswoman, Orly Doron, said: "I read about it in Josephus. The Crusaders blocked it." She said agreement was reached yesterday with all parties, including the Waqf, to reseal the tunnel and that it would not be used by tourists in the foreseeable future.
Mr Lorch said: "Nobody has any intention other than increasing tourism." He denies there is any threat to the Haram. Razi Sa'adi, a Palestinian from elsewhere in the old city who was taking photographs of the tunnel being resealed, said: "People are scared. Now they [the Israelis] will say `we are living on part of Temple Mount which is underground'."
Other Palestinians say that since, after more than 3,000 years, Jerusalem is honey-combed with old drainage channels, water conduits and built-over passages, they fear any excavation beneath their homes can be justified.
Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again
Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood
The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 35,000 walrus gather on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
- 5 Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Jennifer Lawrence nude photos leak: More celebrities allegedly targeted as third wave of hacked images released
Cheryl Cole named 'the most dangerous celebrity' on the internet
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Former Tory donor Arron Banks ups his Ukip donation to £1million following William Hague 'nobody' comment
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...
£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...
£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...