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PA ministry denounces visit by Israeli settlers to archaeological site in Hebron

April 1, 2017 7:30 P.M. (Updated: April 3, 2017 7:06 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A group of Israeli settlers toured a Palestinian archaeological site in the Hebron district of the southern occupied West Bank under military protection on Friday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

In a statement released Saturday, the ministry said that approximately 50 Israeli settlers "stormed" the Roman Empire-era palace, Khirbet al-Muwarraq, and began performing prayers.

The site, which is run by the ministry, is located 20 kilometers west of Hebron city.

"What the settlers did is an obvious breach of international law and agreements," the statement added. "Bilateral agreements, signed by the Palestinians and Israel, ban religious rites at the site," the ministry's statement said.

The ministry has said that Khirbet al-Muwarraq is one of the most important Roman Empire-era archaeological sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and represents "an important part of Palestinian heritage."

Visits by Israeli Jews to sites in areas under Palestinian control across the West Bank often cause tensions with locals, as these visits are often accompanied by large armed escorts.

Palestinians are restricted from visiting holy sites in Israel, meanwhile, without hard-to-obtain permits from government authorities.
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