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RAMALLAH: Palestinians have expressed outrage after teams from an Israeli university launched a series of archaeological digs in a village north of Ramallah.

Residents of Nabi Saleh said the excavations were taking place on their property, although representatives from Bar Ilan University and the Israeli Civil Administration said the site was classified as “state land” under Israeli control .

According to the university’s website, the archaeological site was inhabited in the Bronze Age and was part of the town of Timnat Herres, which is described in the Talmud as the place where Joshua bin Nun lived and died. This is therefore proof of the settlement of the Jews in the region.

Pottery and coins found in the area date back to the 2nd century, he said.

Basim Al-Tamimi, a resident of the village, who owns 1,800 square meters of land in one of the searched areas, told Arab News that he fears that the Israeli authorities will try to take over his property and that of his uncle.

“Digging in the ground under the guise of looking for antiquities is just an excuse and a reason to take over our land later,” he said.

Al-Tamimi led extensive nonviolent resistance in Nabi Saleh from 2009 to 2016 against settlers and the Israeli army after they seized a local water source. Six Palestinians were killed during the conflict and hundreds more were injured.

Naji Al-Tamimi, the head of the Nabi Saleh village council, told Arab News that the Israeli excavations were concentrated in three locations and each excavation site covered around 100 square meters.

While Israeli archaeologists have said the excavation program is scheduled to run from July 25 to August 19, there are no signs that the excavations will end.

“Bar Ilan University is known to be a stronghold of the Israeli right, whose goals are more political than archaeological,” said Naji Al-Tamimi.

“They will claim to have a historical relationship with the area through the presence of Joshua bin Nun’s grave, and then seize it under that guise.”

He added that the nearby settlement of Halamish was built on land that had previously been seized from Nabi Saleh and feared that the latest excavations could result in more of the village’s land being taken.

As evidence of state ownership of the land, Bar Ilan University said there had been a Jordanian military base in the past, while aerial photographs suggested it had not been exploited since. 1967.

According to Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayieh condemned the excavations and said the university’s actions were unacceptable and an attempt to “falsify facts about the history of Palestinian land”. .

During his weekly Cabinet meeting, Shtayieh called on Israeli universities to stop digging and excavating for antiquities in the Palestinian territories.

Meanwhile, Ghassan Al-Khatib, vice-president of Birzeit University, told Arab News that international scientific journals have refused to publish archaeological reports on excavations carried out by Israeli teams working in occupied land in accordance with international law and the Second Protocol to the Hague Charter.

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