The UN’s cultural body approved a resolution from a group of Arab states on Wednesday criticising Israel for failing to protect heritage sites and rebuild regions destroyed by war.
The final version of the draft resolution was changed at the last minute to remove a controversial clause saying the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site at which Jews can pray, is an “integral part” of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Israel had denounced the statement as “a clear endeavour to distort history” and appropriate the site.
The flashpoint compound, which is considered sacred to both Islam and Judaism, is located in the southeastern corner of the Old City in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem. Muslims call it Al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) while Jews rever it as the Temple Mount which housed the First and Second Temples.
Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at the compound in September are widely thought to have led to the current wave of deadly violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The resolution approved on Wednesday — which was drafted by Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates — condemns Israeli actions at the compound, including restricting access to Muslim worshippers during Eid celebrations last month on security grounds.
It was supported by 26 of the 58 member countries on UNESCO’s executive board, while 25 members abstained.
It was opposed by six countries: the United States, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Estonia.
The resolution “deeply deplores the recent repression in East Jerusalem, and the failure of Israel, the Occupying Power, to cease the persistent excavations and works in East Jerusalem particularly in and around the Old City.”
It also calls for the “prompt reconstruction of schools, universities, cultural heritage sites, cultural institutions, media centres and places of worship that have been destroyed or damaged by the consecutive Israeli wars on Gaza.”