Top Israeli archaeologists held an emergency press conference on Thursday, warning that a Second Temple courtyard wall is in danger of being destroyed by the Arab excavations there.
Members of the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities warned that other artifacts could also be endangered by the unsupervised dig.
Dr. Gavriel Barkai opened by saying, "A month and a half ago, the Muslim Waqf [religious trust] began digging a trench more than 400 meters [1,300 feet] long - the largest such work ever carried out on the Temple Mount... These are criminal acts that have no place in a cultured country."
"No other country in the world would allow such grave damage to its most precious archaeological treasures"
"Some man-worked stones have been found in the trench, as well as remnants of a wall that according to all our estimations, are from a structure in one of the outer courtyards in the Holy Temple. Such important work is being done without the supervision of the Antiquities Authority."
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Dr. Eilat Mazar, who has long been involved in the fight to preserve the Temple Mount from unsupervised digging, said she saw Israeli policemen observing but taking no action against the dig. "Irreversible destruction is going on there," she said.
The Committee has demanded that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (fax: 02-670-5475, or 9722-670-5475 from abroad), Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan (Pensioners), and the Antiquities Authority order the work stopped immediately. In addition, they demand that tractors not be allowed to work on the Mount at all, nor may any digging take place without appropriate archaeological supervision.
"The archaeological damage is many times worse," Mazar said, "in light of the fact that the ground level is only slightly above the original Temple Mount platform. And in fact, the bedrock has been uncovered in some places - meaning that earth that has been in place for many centuries, even possibly since the First Temple, has been removed."
"No other country in the world would allow such grave damage to its most precious archaeological treasures," Mazar said.
The Committee is planning to file a complaint with the police, and is considering submitting an appeal to the Supreme Court.