Palestinians slam US 'war crimes' after Jerusalem tunnel opening
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and US Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt joined the Israeli group at the ceremony opening an ancient Jewish "Pilgrimage Road" tunnel in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, where excavation works have been carried out for eight years by archaeologists.
"We consider the participation of (US Mideast Envoy) Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman to be criminal collusion in the commission of a war crime that must be condemned as well as universally and unequivocally confronted," the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said in a statement, slamming the move as "war crime".
"The US administration has partnered with the fundamentalist settler organisations to provoke religious tensions and fan the flames of conflict," the PLO said.
Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, said that Friedman was himself "an extremist Israeli settler."
The event angered the Palestinian Authority (PA) as well as several Israeli NGOs.
The settlement watchdog Peace Now protested outside the event and branded the excavated road "the controversy tunnel."
"[It] caused the evacuation of Palestinian homes in the neighborhood and increased tensions between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers, who have been acting more intensively than ever in recent years to Judaize the neighborhood, as part of an effort to sabotage the two-state solution," Peace Now said.
The NGO said the ceremony would further entrench an Israeli presence in eastern parts of the holy city of Jerusalem, which Palestinians want to be their future capital.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
It sees the entire city as its capital while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
US President Donald Trump in 2017 broke with decades of precedent by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The White House later cut hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian aid and closed the Palestinians' de facto embassy in Washington.
Last week, it organised an economic conference in Bahrain meant to kickstart a long-awaited Middle East peace effort, but the Palestinians boycotted it.
Friedman has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and Greenblatt last week said he preferred to call them "neighbourhoods and cities" rather than settlements.
Israeli settlements in occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace since they are located on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israel says Palestinian violence, incitement and the intransigence of their leaders are the main reasons for the lack of progress in peace efforts.
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