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Israel okays controversial Jerusalem archaeology project

April 4, 2014 2:18 P.M. (Updated: April 6, 2014 3:51 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel has approved a controversial archaeology project in occupied East Jerusalem, the interior ministry said Friday, in a move likely to compound tensions threatening to scupper peace talks.

The ministry "heard objections" from residents to the plans to build a visitor center just outside Jerusalem's Old City walls in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, a statement said.

However it granted approval to the project on grounds that it "will show important archaeological discoveries to the public."

"As a tourist attraction, this will contribute to the development of the city of Jerusalem," the ministry added.

The Silwan neighborhood, where the 13,000-square-foot complex is to be built, is already home to dozens of Jewish settler families who live under heavy guard among Palestinian residents.

Palestinian residents charge that the new visitor center fails to take account of their needs and is an attempt to further strengthen the Jewish presence in Silwan.
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