The Hamas-run government in Gaza has partially bulldozed a UNESCO world heritage site, known as the Anthedon harbor, which is 3,000 years old and was discovered by archaeologists in 1997, despite the fact that the Anthedon contains rich mosaics and other archaeological treasures dating back to antiquity. Deputy Minister of Tourism in Gaza Muhammad Khela justified this archaeological crime by stating, “We can’t stand as an obstacle in the way of Palestinian resistance; we are all a part of a resistance project, yet we promise that the location will be limitedly used without harming it at all.” Of course, without the funds in place for the sites preservation and the methods Hamas uses, this is not guaranteed.
The Anthedon is indeed a treasure that is worth saving. According to UNESCO, “Anthedon is the first known seaport of Gaza, mentioned in Islamic literature with the names of Tida…The city was inhabited from 800 BC to 1100 AD…The acropolis of Anthedon shows archaeological remains dated from the late Iron Age II, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods….The excavated site is about 20 dunam [5 acres] and consists of a 65-meter [213-foot] long mud-brick wall, formerly of the old commercial city center, which was part of the eastern extension of the harbor, and other earthen works…”
UNESCO continued, “Anthedon represents a clear example among the seaports along the Eastern Mediterranean coast, demarcating the ancient trade route that linked Europe with the Levant during Phoenician, Roman, and Hellenistic periods…. The presence of massive earthen structure in the proximity of the sea as well as the rich underwater heritage, still to be explored, make Anthedon an excellent site for nomination to the World Heritage list.” Yet, despite the fact that the site also has significance in Islamic history, Hamas did not abandon its plan to bulldoze the site to utilize it for terror activities.
UN Watch has condemned this latest action taken by the Hamas government and urged UNESCO to take action on the matter. According to UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, who wrote a letter to the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, “UN Watch is alarmed by the reported destruction by Hamas of parts of the ancient Anthedon Harbor in Gaza for use as a terrorist training camp. We urge you to bring the matter immediately before the UNESCO Executive Board, currently meeting at its 191st session in Paris, for protective action. We note the tragic irony that this destruction by the rulers of Gaza comes exactly one year after the area was nominated by new UNESCO member state Palestine as a World Heritage site,” the letter noted, referring to the Palestinian Authority’s recent upgraded states at the United Nations.”
Neuer continued, “As you must know, earlier last month, despite criticism from nongovernmental organizations, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas bulldozed a part of the Anthedon Harbor in northern Gaza along the Mediterranean Sea. Hamas damaged the harbor in order to expand its ‘military training’ zone, which was initially opened on the location in 2002, according to your own UNESCO representative in Gaza, Yousef al-Ejla. That the UNESCO executive has so far failed to place the Hamas destruction and cynical abuse of this site on its agenda underscores the tragic politicization and diversion of the agency’s mission to protect world culture and heritage. As Hamas turns a cultural heritage site into a terrorist training ground, the silence of UNESCO now places the very credibility of the organization at stake.”
By Rachel Avraham