An international body of Muslim nations has condemned the opening of an Israeli tunnel that runs beneath the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Wednesday called it a “bold and irresponsible move” that seeks “to alter the historic and legal status” of east Jerusalem.
The OIC reiterated its position that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory, noting the Israeli measures constitute a violation of international law.
OIC affirmed the importance of preserving the Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity and cultural heritage of Jerusalem.
The tunnel, which is both dangerous and illegal under international law, has been endorsed by senior US politicians.
The tunnel, dubbed “pilgrim tunnel”, has left dozens of houses in Silwan damaged, leaving Palestinian residents at risk of their homes being collapsed because of the illegal project.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and US Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt on Sunday joined an Israeli settler-linked group at the ceremony opening of the tunnel.
Friedman has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and Greenblatt last week said he preferred to call them “neighbourhoods and cities” rather than settlements.
Israel took over mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
It now considers the entire city its capital, citing the Jewish historical and biblical connection there.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as the capital of their future state.
Some 320,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem, while the Israeli settler population there has grown to 210,000.
The area Area C of the occupied West Bank, where planning and construction are entirely controlled by the Israeli Civil Administration
The Oslo agreement of 1995 divided the occupied West Bank into three: area A, area B and area C.
Area A is under the administrative and security control of the Palestinian Authority. Area B’s administration is controlled by the PA, with Israel controlling security. Area C is under full administrative and security control of Israel.
All Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank are classed as illegal under international law, particularly Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which asserts that “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.
Israeli forces and settlers routinely attack Palestinians in the occupied territories, demolishing their homes, poisoning their livestock and vandalising properties.