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Jerusalem Tunnel Collapse Blamed on Jewish Group

A channel dug for archaeological excavations in Silwan partially collapsed on Monday near the village’s mosque. Residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood place the responsibility for the collapse on the Elad nonprofit organization and accuse Elad of endangering the mosque and nearby homes.

Elad manages the City of David National Park, which is in Silwan, and funds many of the archaeological excavations carried out in the area by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

There have been a number of collapses in the past in the neighborhood, and residents claim the reason is digs that are conducted carelessly. They also point out cracks in their homes they claim are a result of the excavations. “How is it that in the houses above the tunnels there are cracks?” asked Jawad Siam, the head of the information center in Silwan.

Elad says infrastructure problems and illegal construction are the cause of the cracks and some of the collapses.

One of the excavations that has been going on for a few years has exposed a street from the Herodian period that leads from the Siloam Pool all the way to the area near the Temple Mount, as well as a drainage channel underneath the road. A metal and wood structure supports the sides of the newly excavated road. Recently the excavation of the tunnel was completed, and now reaches the Western Wall. But the heavy rains in Jerusalem at the beginning of the week caused one of the walls of the lower section of the tunnel to collapse, not far from the Siloam Pool and the Ein Silwan mosque.

The coordinator of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch team, Hagit Ofran, has demanded that the Jerusalem municipality halt the work: “The collapse of the tunnel is life-threatening. The city must order a halt to all underground excavations in Silwan until a broad and independent engineering evaluation is made of all the tunnels,” said Ofran.

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