City of David tourist center plans cause stir

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Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip late Tuesday, killing a Palestinian militant wounding others. Israel said it targeted militants before they could carry out an attack on the border between Israel and Egypt. 

View of the excavation site known as the City of David, bottom, with the background of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan near Jerusalem’s Old City is seen. A hard-line Israeli group is launching plans for a new tourist center at the City of David, a politically sensitive archaeological dig in a largely Arab neighborhood outside Jerusalem’s Old City [Credit: AP/Dan Balilty]

Gaza Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said the militant was killed and another two injured in the explosion when a rocket hit his motorcycle Tuesday evening. 

The Islamic Jihad, a violent Palestinian group that frequently fires rockets and mortars at Israel, said the he was a former member. The Israeli military said in a statement it targeted a “terror squad,” without elaborating. 

Another airstrike hit a Hamas police vehicle later Tuesday, injuring one Hamas officer and four others in the car, the Gaza health official said. 

The Israeli military said it targeted “members of a global jihad terror group that were planning to attack the border.” 

In a statement, the military gave a list of the militants’ names and said one of them used to be in Hamas before joining an even more radical jihadi group. 

Such Israeli air attacks have been relatively rare since the end of a three-week Israeli war against Gaza militants three years ago. 

It said the military will “not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and soldiers, and will operate against anyone who uses terror against Israel.” 

In August, Palestinian militants who apparently sneaked out of Gaza into the Egyptian Sinai desert attacked Israelis on a border road in Israel, killing eight. Israeli forces pursuing the militants killed six Egyptian soldiers by mistake, setting off a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. 

Also Tuesday, a hard-line Israeli group said it was launching plans for a new tourist center at the site of a politically sensitive archaeological dig in a largely Arab neighborhood outside Jerusalem’s Old City, drawing fire from Palestinian officials. 

The project’s sponsor, the Elad Foundation, said the new visitors center and parking garage will be built above a section of the excavation area known as the City of David, leaving the ruins below accessible. Construction, which must pass several zoning committees, was still several years away. 

Israeli archaeologists at the City of David, named for the biblical monarch thought to have ruled from the spot 3,000 years ago, are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem. 

The site is just outside the Old City walls at the edge of the neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem, the part of the city the Palestinian Authority says it wants as the capital of a hoped-for state. 

Israeli construction in east Jerusalem is regularly subject to international criticism. Critics say the new plan will cement Israel’s hold on Silwan and could destabilize the volatile neighborhood, where Palestinian residents clash on occasion with Jewish residents and police. 

Author: Ibrahim Barzak | Source: Associated Press [December 27, 2011]

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