UK fears Israeli settlers using archaeological digs as pretext to grab land

UK ministers concerned of link between Israeli Antiquities Authority and “radical” Israeli settler group Elad

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A link between the Israeli antiquity authority and a group of “radical” Israeli settlers may be contributing to the expansion of illegal settlements, the British government fears, The Independent newspaper reported on Monday.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority – an official government body – has allegedly worked with a group known as Elad, a relationship UK ministers say may be undermining peace in the region.

Elad is known for its aggressive expansion of Israeli settlement into Palestinian land, deemed illegal under international law and condemned by the United Nations.

“We are aware of the link between the Elad [settler] group and the Israel Antiquities Authority. We are concerned that this link has led to Israel Antiquities Authority’s support of radical settler activities in and around the Old City under the guise of tourism and protection of Jewish history,” Conservative Foreign Office minister Baroness Joyce Anelay said.

“Such actions not only aggravate mounting pressures in East Jerusalem but serve to increase tension around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and further complicate future attempts to negotiate a political resolution on the city,” she added.

Last week, the group reportedly entered a Palestinian apartment complex and emptied the resident’s belongings while she was at the police station for questioning, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

Elad had previously reportedly paid the Israeli Antiquities Authority to dig excavation trenches near the foundations of Palestinian homes and mosques in East Jerusalem.

In 2011, a tunnel dug by the Israeli Antiquities Authority – financed by Elad – collapsed in the Palestinian village of Silwan, which residents said endangered their homes and mosque.

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