UNESCO has censured Israel for limiting Muslim access to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which has recently become the flashpoint for bloodshed and violence amid mounting tensions over the holy site, sacred to both Muslims and Jews. The resolution, passed Wednesday, “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.” According to Ynet, a news website in Israel, it also “strongly condemns Israeli aggression and illegal measures restricting freedom of worship and access to the holy Muslim site of the Al-Aqsa mosque.”

According to diplomats, the UNESCO resolution also reaffirmed that two other holy sites in the West Bank, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, “are an integral part of Palestine.” It was passed with 26 votes for and six against – the US, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Estonia. There were 25 abstentions, including France, diplomats said. The draft resolution was modified at the last minute to drop a controversial clause that laid claim to Jerusalem’s Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) as a space reserved exclusively for Muslims. According to Israeli diplomats, that clause (proposed by several Muslim states) would have declared the wall an “integral part” of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a potential first step to forbidding Jews from approaching the holy site where they pray and slip written prayers into the wall’s cracks. FULL REPORT