Unesco yesterday declared the Old City of Hebron an endangered world heritage site, sparking outrage from Israel in a new spat with the Palestinians at the international body.
The UN’s cultural arm voted 12 to three — with six abstentions — to give heritage status to Hebron’s Old City in the occupied West Bank, which is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers.
“Just inscribed on @Unesco #WorldHeritage List & World Heritage in Danger List: Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town,” the organisation said on its official Twitter feed.
The vote drew a sharp denunciation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described it as “another delusional decision by Unesco.”
Brought by the Palestinians, the resolution declared Hebron’s Old City to be an area of outstanding universal value.
The resolution was fast-tracked on the basis that the site was under threat, with the Palestinians accusing Israel of an “alarming” number of violations, including vandalism and damage to property.
The Palestinian foreign ministry hailed yesterday’s decision a “success” for Palestinian diplomacy.
Israel has long accused the United Nations of inherent bias against it and there have been a number of disputes at the organisation where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has sought to take the battle for statehood.
In May, Unesco passed a resolution condemning Israel’s role as the “occupying power” in annexed east Jerusalem in another decision slammed by Israel which sees the entire city as its unified capital.
Hebron claims to be one of the oldest cities in the world, with its origins dating back to the Chalcolithic period — more than 3,000 years BC.
Hebron’s Old City is home to an ancient burial cave.
Hebron is also a stark symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The few hundred Israelis live closed off in several small, interconnected settlements that most of the world consider as illegal, with Palestinians largely banned from entering and using nearby streets.
Israel seized the West Bank in the 1967 war in a move considered illegal by the United Nations.
The Israelis living in Hebron are protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers, with Palestinians saying the settlements makes their lives impossible.
The Unesco committee usually votes via a show of hands but this time, Croatia, Jamaica and Poland requested the secret ballot, prompting a heated discussion which required the chairman to call in
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