A group of Jewish settlers today stormed the archaeological site of Sebastia, north of Nablus city, according to a local source.
The mayor of Sebastia, Mohammad Azzem, told WAFA that Israeli forces closed off the area and occupied the rooftops of some buildings to provide protection for the settlers, who forced their way into the site in three batches.
He added that despite the general lockdown declared by the Palestinian government to curb the spread of the coronavirus cases, Israel is reckless enough to allow dozens of settlers into the site, posing dangers to its residents.
Israel sponsors and promotes archaeological initiatives in Palestine with the sole purpose of linking only the Jewish narrative to our land, rather than embracing its entangled complexities.https://t.co/KDQsg8KIHx
— Raimo Kangasniemi (@rk70534) October 3, 2020
Located 11 kilometers to the northwest of Nablus, Sebastia is a small historical town located on a hill with panoramic views across the West Bank and has a population of some 3,000 Palestinians.
A prominent settlement during the Iron Age as well as the Hellenistic and Roman eras, the town embraces a Roman amphitheater, temples, a Byzantine and Crusader churches, dedicated to Saint John the Forerunner, who baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, besides to a mosque built in honor of the saint. Christians and Muslims believe the town to be the burial place of the saint.
— The Palestine Chronicle (@PalestineChron) March 6, 2021
Israel has been attempting to take over the town, which has become a site of heated cultural conflict, preventing the Palestinian Authority from conducting restoration works at the site, prohibiting providing tourist services to visitors from around the world, and stealing antiquities from it.
Palestinians complain that Jewish settlers have repeatedly attacked the town and fenced parts of its antiquities, where they hold religious rituals.
(WAFA, PC, Social Media)