Hundreds of Historical Archaeological Sites Destroyed in Gaza – Israeli NGO

The Christmas celebrations at the St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in January 2023. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, Palestine Chronicle, file)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Hundreds of ancient sites, historic monuments, museums and archives have been damaged or destroyed since the start of Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip, according to an Israeli non-governmental organization.

“We have been monitoring the situation as best as possible from the beginning of the war,” the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh said in a statement.

“The devastation is widespread,” the organization stressed.

Most notably, it added, was “the destruction of the al-Omari Mosque (also known as the Great Mosque) in the Old City of Gaza.”

The organization which works “to defend cultural heritage rites and protect ancient sites” said video footage of the destruction “reveals heavy damage to the oldest mosque in Gaza and one of the most important historic sites in the region and to the people of Gaza.”

Destroying History: What We Know about Gaza’s Archeological Sites Targeted by Israel

“The loss of heritage sites in Gaza such as the Great al-Omari Mosque is first of all a great loss for the people of Gaza and the Palestinian people, but it is also a loss for all people who live in and share this land,” the NGO said.

It added that when the war ends, “the scant remains of the al-Omari Mosque will stand as a symbol for the utter devastation of the recent chapter in Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

The body also mentioned that “an Israeli airstrike hit a building … within the area of the Greek Orthodox Porphyrius Church compound in Gaza’s Old City” in October. 

It also reported that Jehad Yassin, Director of the Department of Museums and Excavations at the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, was quoted as saying that “the recently discovered Roman necropolis has been almost completely destroyed by the bombardment.”

Yassin, the organization said, also mentioned that several important museums have been damaged or destroyed including the Rafah Museum, al Qarara Cultural Museum and Deir al Balah Museum, a statement that has been confirmed by ICOM-Arab (a regional alliance of the International Council of Museums).

Israeli Forces Destroyed over 200 Archeological Sites in Gaza – Reports

Yassin also mentioned Gaza’s historic Anthedon Harbour (on UNESCO’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites) as having been impacted by the bombardment, the Emek Shaveh said.

The Hamam al-Samra, an ancient bathhouse and one of the main, and few remaining, Ottoman architectural sites in Gaza, has also been destroyed. 

Another important site which according to reports, the organization said, has been destroyed is Gaza’s Central Archives.

‘Heritage Sites in Gaza Belong to Gazans’

According to the Anadolu news agency, the statement came after a video showed an official from Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) accompanying Israeli army soldiers to examine a collection of antiquities in Gaza, and appeared to be celebrating the discovery of the site.

“We wish to reiterate that the heritage sites in Gaza belong to the people of Gaza,” the Israeli group reportedly said.

The organization further called on “the government of Israel and the Hamas to take all possible measures to respect international law and protect heritage sites as the assets that belong to all of us, and to the future generations of the people living in this land.” 

Israeli Airstrikes Destroys Ancient Mosque in Gaza City

The Geneva-based rights group, Euro-Med Monitor, said in November that Israel deliberately destroyed archeological and historical monuments in the Gaza Strip, and accused it of “explicitly targeting Palestinian cultural heritage.”

The Government Media Office in Gaza has reportedly said that Israel has destroyed more than 200 archeological and ancient sites out of 325 that were registered, in the ongoing assault on Gaza.

“Gaza is rich in history,” writes Ramzy Baroud, Palestinian journalist and author.

Evidence of Hyksos, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and other civilizations which dwelled in that region for thousands of years, is a testimony to the historical significance of the area.”

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 25,490 Palestinians have been killed, and 63,354 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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