JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli officials fear the completion of an excavation project near the Temple Mount may spur violence by Palestinians.
The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday that it had completed the excavation of an ancient tunnel that runs from the City of David in eastern Jerusalem to near the Temple Mount.
Some Palestinians believe the project is an attempt to damage the Al Aksa Mosque; previous archeological projects in the area have led to rioting by Palestinians.
Uzi Dahari, the Israel Antiquities Authority ‘s deputy director, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that there was "no intention of igniting interreligious tensions."
Travelers making pilgrimages to Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago used the road in the tunnel, according to the authority. It was discovered during excavations on a water channel used for drainage during the Second Temple period.
Work on the tunnel took seven years, including a year’s delay after the Israeli Supreme Court ordered work halted while it considered a petition by residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan who claimed the dig was damaging their homes. The stop-work order was lifted in September 2009.
The City of David archeological site is located in Silwan and is run by Elad, a settler organization that seeks to expand Jewish presence in all of Jerusalem.
No opening has been made on the tunnel near the Temple Mount, though one is planned, Haaretz reported. The tunnel does not run under the Temple Mount.