Palestinians Protest Opening of Herodian Tunnel in Old City

Angry Palestinians clashed with police in the Old City of Jerusalem this week after word spread that municipal officials had opened a Herodian tunnel that leads from the Via Dolorosa to sites near Islamic holy sites on the Temple Mount.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said Tuesday the tunnel would become a major tourist attraction that would benefit both the Jewish and Muslim populations of Jerusalem.

He insisted that nothing in the project endangers the Temple Mount.

In a separate development Tuesday, government lawyers, responding in the High Court of Justice to an application by rightist Jewish groups, asserted that building work being carried out by the Muslim Religious Authority under the Temple Mount was licensed, legal and does not threaten archaeological treasures at the site.

Despite this legal stance taken by the government in defense of Muslim religious rights, the city’s Islamic leadership appeared to be encouraging the demonstrations against the opening of the Herodian tunnel.

There were also clashes Tuesday in Hebron, as hundreds of Palestinians clashed with soldiers and border policemen near the center of the volatile West Bank town.

The Palestinians demanded that the long-postponed redeployment of Israeli troops there be implemented.

They also demanded that shops and stalls in the central market that were closed by the Israeli authorities be handed back to the Palestinian owners and allowed to reopen.

As the Palestinians demonstrated — among them the Palestinian minister of higher education, Hanan Ashrawi — Jewish settlers led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger held a demonstration of their own to protest the army’s granting permission for the Palestinian demonstration.

Levinger said the shops in question were Jewish property.

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