The Palestinian Authority has begun building a neighborhood on the site of Joshua’s Altar on Mount Ebal in northern Samaria, Channel 12 reported.
An inspector from the Samaria Regional Council’s Lands Department on Sunday discovered that the P.A. has started paving roads as part of a project for 32 housing units on the ruins of the historic site, which is mentioned in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua in the Hebrew Bible.
Following the revelation, Israel’s Civil Administration said that the construction vehicle operating on the site had been confiscated and that the archaeologist in charge of antiquities affairs in Judea and Samaria had opened an investigation.
The site, near Shechem (Nablus), is in Area B of Judea and Samaria per the Oslo Accords, which falls under P.A. administrative control and joint P.A.-Israeli security control.
The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, demanded that the Civil Administration intervene to stop the work immediately.
“No barbarian will be allowed to destroy this [site] of the people of Israel and human history. A disaster of heritage and history,” said Dagan.
“It is a real disaster. It is impossible that in the days of the sovereign state of Israel we will allow under our noses damage to the only historical site that proves the status of the entry of the people of Israel into its land in the days of Joshua,” he continued.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in January that Israel would not allow Palestinians to damage the archaeological site.
In a letter sent to Knesset member Limor Son Har-Melech (Otzma Yehudit), Gallant wrote that he had instructed the IDF to carry out frequent patrols in the area, and to prevent any activity which could damage the site.
Moshe Gutman, chairman of the “Keepers of the Eternal,” a coalition of organizations for the protection, preservation and development of antiquities and heritage sites in Judea and Samaria, said that Gallant had broken his promise to protect the site from Palestinian intrusion.
“The Palestinians recognized Israel’s weakness and it was decided to destroy Israel’s most valuable heritage asset in Samaria. If the country does not come to its senses now, the altar and its surroundings will be destroyed and lost forever. I call on the prime minister and ministers of the Israeli government to address the issue immediately,” said Gutman.
Israeli officials said in March that Palestinian road construction had damaged the ancient town of Sebastia, one of the major archaeological sites of the Holy Land, which served as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel nearly three millennia ago.