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October, 23, 2016

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UNESCO adopts Jerusalem resolution

PARIS--The U.N. cultural agency on Tuesday adopted a controversial Arab-sponsored resolution condemning Israel's actions at a flashpoint holy site in east Jerusalem that has sparked fury in the Jewish state.

The UNESCO resolution on "occupied Palestine" was drafted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. It was endorsed Tuesday by the executive board after being approved at the committee stage last week.

Referring throughout to Israel as "the occupying power," it condemns Israel for restricting Muslims' access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound -- Islam's third holiest site.

But it is the language used to describe the Old City site, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, that has infuriated Israel, which suspended its cooperation with the Paris-based U.N. body last week.

While acknowledging the importance of the Old City to "the three monotheistic religions" (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) the resolution refers throughout to the site by its Muslim names, Al-Aqsa or Al-Haram al-Sharif.

Jews however revere it as the Temple Mount where the First and Second Temples once stood and the holiest site in Judaism.

Palestine's deputy ambassador to UNESCO, Mounir Anastas, welcomed the adoption of the resolution, saying he hoped it would pressure Israeli authorities to "stop all their violations," particularly the excavation of sites in and around the Old City.

But Israel's UNESCO ambassador, Carmel Shama Hacohen, accused the Palestinians of playing "games."

"This is the wrong place to solve problems between countries or people," he told AFP.

Unease in UNESCO

This is the second time this year that the U.N. agency, which accepted Palestine as a full member state in 2011, has been the focal point of tensions between Israel and Arab countries.

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Israeli UNESCO ambassador Carmel Shama Hacohen speaks to the media as he walks out of the meeting room at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris, Monday, Oct. 17.


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