Tensions continue to escalate in the northern West Bank town of Sebastia as Israeli occupation forces closed three entrances to the historic town and archaeological site on Monday. This move has sparked concerns that the Israeli government is aiming to transform the area into a Jewish settlement, potentially endangering the rich Palestinian cultural heritage that dates back millennia.
Mayor Mohammad Azem of Sebastia confirmed that Israeli bulldozers placed dirt mounds to block three entrances from the west of the town while maintaining control of the main entrance with a strong Israeli military presence. This development has raised suspicions among local residents and heritage preservation advocates who fear that the ancient archaeological site could be at risk.
The historic town of Sebastia, located northwest of the city of Nablus, boasts a wealth of Canaanite monuments that have stood for over five millennia. Its cultural significance has drawn international attention, and the recent actions by Israeli occupation have sparked outrage.
Earlier this week, the Israeli government allocated NIS 30 million for the comprehensive takeover of archaeological sites within Sebastia. This decision has ignited a contentious debate over the preservation of cultural heritage in the region. The controversial project includes the installation of tents and the mobilization of machinery within the town, ostensibly for development purposes.
Critics argue that the timing of these actions, coinciding with Jewish holidays, is a deliberate attempt to seize control of the Palestinian town’s historical and cultural legacy. By restricting access to the archaeological site during these holidays, concerns have been raised about potential damage to the ancient monuments.
Local residents have reported the arrival of equipment and machinery at various archaeological sites in Sebastia, further heightening fears about the fate of the town’s cultural heritage. Advocates for heritage preservation are calling for international attention and intervention to safeguard the ancient Canaanite artifacts and structures that make Sebastia a testament to the region’s historical significance.
The closure of entrances to Sebastia has led to protests and condemnations from Palestinian authorities and heritage preservation organizations. They demand that the Israeli government reconsider its plans and engage in dialogue to protect the unique cultural heritage of Sebastia while ensuring the town’s accessibility to all interested in its historical significance.