Israeli-run Jerusalem Municipality claimed the Turkish aid agency's plaque was removed because “it was placed without permission,” but official documents accessed by Anadolu Agency disprove this pretext.
Official documents disprove Israel’s claim that a Turkish aid agency plaque was put up at a historic Muslim cemetery in occupied East Jerusalem without permission.
The plaque marked the completion of a Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) restoration project at Yusufiye Cemetery, one of the oldest Muslim graveyards in occupied East Jerusalem, and had been there for 10 years before Israeli officials removed it on Wednesday.
Contacted by Anadolu Agency, the Israeli-run Jerusalem Municipality claimed the plaque was removed because “it was placed without permission,” but official documents disprove this pretext.
Documents accessed by Anadolu Agency on Thursday contain all details of the restoration project carried out by the Committee for the Preservation of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem and funded by the Turkish agency.
They show that all required approvals were obtained from the municipality, also specifically referring to permission to place a plaque with details of the project and the name of the contractor.
Turkey’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun criticised the Israeli move by removing the sign from the cemetery, stressed that behind of this action is the Israeli government's anger against Ankara.
"The removal of TIKA’s sign from the Yusufiye cemetery in Jerusalem is a manifestation of the Israeli police’s deep animosity against our flag with its crescent and star, which itself has been a haven for the oppressed all around the world. The reason behind this intolerance is well known," he said on his Twitter account.
On display since 2010
Mustafa Abu Zahra, head of the Committee for the Preservation of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem, said the plaque had been on public display since 2010, and Israeli authorities had not raised any objections in a decade.
He said the municipality had never even asked the committee about the plaque.
TIKA had funded the rebuilding of the Yusufiye Cemetery’s walls – 700 meters long and five meters high – as part of the restoration project.
'Unlawful and disrespectful'
Ahmet Refik Cetinkaya, who heads TIKA’s office in Palestine, condemned the Israeli action as “unlawful and disrespectful.”
He also confirmed that the project was carried out with the approval of all Israeli and Palestinian authorities concerned.
Several Israeli far-right groups have recently launched a campaign against Turkey due to its support for Palestinians.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is seen as occupied territory under international law, making all Jewish settlements there illegal.