Israel is working to take over Sebastia archaeological site to the northwest of Nablus, in the West Bank and has sent a contractor to do restoration work on the site, according to Mohammad Azem, head of Sebastia village council.
Israeli authorities are trying to take control of the archaeological area through increasing visits to the site by Israeli settlers while removing any sign that show it as a Palestinian area, including the Palestinian flag that has been flown there for decades.
IOF blasts Palestinian flagpole in Sebastia#DeleteIsrael #UnitedForPalestine #ThirdIntifada #SaveAlAqsa #Palestinians #Jerusalem_The capital of Palestinehttps://t.co/KPYn8FrGyT pic.twitter.com/8U1VoB9G1s
— Palestine Foundation (@plfpak) March 15, 2018
Azem said the contractor erected a fence around a number of archaeological areas in the town, and there were fears that settlers are preparing to hold religious rituals at the site for the Jewish Passover holiday, which means it will be closed to Palestinians.
Sebastia is an archaeological city to the west of Nablus in the northern West Bank of about 3,000 Palestinian residents.
مسجد النبى يحى بالقرب من نابلس فلسطين 1900 ـ 1920
Nabi Yahya Mosque, Sebastia, near Nablus. Palestine. 1900-1920 pic.twitter.com/P28JgnrgwI
— Sahar (@paricgehr) March 7, 2018
Besides being an archaeological city, Sebastia has religious significance for both Muslims and Christians, because it is believed that John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus in Jordan River, is buried there.
Israel had prevented the Palestinian Authority from carrying out restoration work on the site under the pretext it is located within Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military control according to Palestinian-Israeli Oslo Accord.
(Wafa, PC, Social Media)