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UNESCO Declares Al-Khalil Shrine Palestinian

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The UN cultural organization declared an ancient shrine in the occupied West Bank a Palestinian heritage site Friday, prompting the "Israeli" entity to further cut its funding to the UN.

Al-Khalil shrines

UNESCO designated al-Khalil's [Hebron] Ibrahimi Mosque - a "Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger."

"Israeli" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called that "another delusional UNESCO decision" and ordered that $1 million be diverted from the entity's UN funding to establish a museum and other projects covering Jewish heritage in al-Khalil.

The funding cut is the "Israeli" entity's fourth in the past year, taking its UN contribution from $11 million to just $1.7 million, an "Israeli" official said. Each cut has come after various UN bodies voted to adopt decisions which the entity said discriminated against it.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Reyad al-Maliki said the UNESCO vote, at a meeting in Krakow, Poland, was proof of the "successful diplomatic battle Palestine has launched on all fronts in the face of ‘Israeli' and American pressure on [UNESCO] member countries."

"Despite a frantic ‘Israeli' campaign spreading lies and distorting the facts about the Palestinian rights, the world has recognized our right to register Hebron [al-Khalil] and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty," the statement added.

The Ibrahimi Mosque had long been a flashpoint of the "Israeli"-Palestinian conflict.

Al-Khalil is the largest Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank with a population of some 200,000. About 1,000 "Israeli" settlers live in the heart of the city and for years it has been a place of religious friction between Muslims and "Israelis".

The religious significance of the city had made it a focal point for settlers, who are determined to expand the "Israeli" presence there. Living in the heart of the city, they require intense security, with some 800 "Israeli" troops protecting them.

Even before Netanyahu's budget announcement, so-called Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan signaled the entity would seek to further make its mark at the al-Khalil shrine, tweeting: "UNESCO will continue to adopt delusional decisions but history cannot be erased ... we must continue to manifest our right by building immediately in the Cave of the Patriarchs." Brought by the Palestinians, the resolution declared al-Khalil'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 the entity of an "alarming" number of violations, including vandalism and damage to property.

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 security.

There was another moment of intrigue when the entity's ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama Hacohen, took the floor after the vote but kept being interrupted by his cellphone. "Mr. Chairman, it's my plumber in my apartment in Paris. There is a huge problem in my toilet," he eventually said. "And it's much [more] important than the decision that you just adopted."

By listing sites on its World Heritage in Danger list, UNESCO seeks to mobilize the international community to protect them. It also allows for the allocation of immediate World Heritage Fund assistance to the property.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team