- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Hamas-run government in Gaza has bulldozed down a 3,000-year-old culturally significant site that was listed as a U.N. heritage site in order to make room for military training.

Izz ad-Din al-Qasssam Brigade officials, who operate as the military attachment of Hamas, clear-cut a portion of the Anthedon Harbor that’s located along the Mediterranean Sea, in the northern part of Gaza, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The centuries-old seaport was named an international heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2012. It’s the older harbor in Gaza and is decorated with mosaic floors and historical pillars that hail from the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras, the Jerusalem Post said.

Now part of it is gone, bulldozed away to make room for the military. Hamas officials said the takeover is temporary only.

“Due to rising population in the region, the ministry appreciates the urgent need for using new pieces of land,” the Hamas-run Ministry of Tourism said in a statement reported by the Jerusalem Post. “This is why the ministry has agreed with the different responsible parties on using a limited part of the location temporarily in a way that won’t harm the underground monuments there in any way.”

U.N. Watch officials aren’t happy. They’ve written a letter to UNESCO — which has stayed largely silent on the bulldozing — asking for help in halting the bulldozing that they see as “use as a terrorist training camp,” the Jerusalem Post quoted.

The letter went on: “UNESCO’s admission of Palestine as a member state in 2011, which caused the organization to lose almost a quarter of its budget when the U.S. suspended its contributions, was justified as a measure to help protect the world heritage sites in Palestinian areas. Yet as Hamas turns a cultural heritage site into a terrorist training ground — the antithesis of culture — the silence of UNESCO now places the very credibility of the organization at stake.”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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