Gaza- Palestinian antiquities expert Fadel al-Otul feels great concern about the fate of thousands of artifacts collected over several years, after the Israeli occupation forces took control of the warehouse in which these artifacts from different eras are located.
Fadl spends most of his time in his tent, which he built on the beach of the city of Rafah in the far south of the Gaza Strip after he was displaced from his home in the northern Gaza Strip as a result of the Israeli attack. Aggression on Gaza Strip.
Fadl, considered one of the most prominent workers in the excavation and restoration of antiquities, ran the warehouse, which received support from the “French School of Antiquities” in Jerusalem.
But the Israeli invasion forced them to move away from the storeroom and its valuable artefacts.
“Our antiquities belong to the Palestinian people”
Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, he expressed his anger over the news regarding Israel's control over the storeroom and the arrival of the deputy head of the Israeli Antiquities Authority to Gaza to investigate it.
He said, “These antiquities are not meant for archaeological investigation by other people, because they belong to the Palestinian people. They are genuine antiquities that were found during excavations, documented, sorted and cleaned. Everything in the storeroom Correct and consistent with archaeological scientific rules.”
On January 21, the director of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, Eli Escocedo, posted a video clip on his Instagram account in which a team led by his deputy is investigating the warehouse located in Gaza City (North).
Occupation forces steal antiquities from Gaza and document the crime
document an army #profession Before claiming to undo it, that itself was a new war crime. A team affiliated with the Antiquities Authority investigated a storeroom inside #GazaStripIt contains antiquities that appear to be ancient, and the director of the Antiquities Authority, Eli Escusido, has published a story describing some of the finds… pic.twitter.com/XP1jFoJH5r
– Megaphone (@megaphone_news) 22 January 2024
Escucedo removed the clip several hours later, and wrote a clarification in which he said he had asked the Israeli occupation forces to put the artifacts in their place.
According to a Palestinian expert, the occupying forces are currently in the warehouse.
Fadal watched the video clip shown by Escocido and said it was from the warehouse he managed.
He further said, “We saw the warehouse two days ago (through photos), and we hope to see all the pieces in place after the army leaves.”
He said the artefacts date from a time period ranging from 3,000 years BC to the seventh and eighth centuries AD to the beginning of the early Islamic era.
He added, “These are important pieces because they indicate the history of Palestine. These are civilian historical artifacts, not military, and they do not pose a threat to anyone.”
Regarding how these fragments were collected, he said, “We found them during excavations or by chance while working. Gaza is a historical city, and wherever we excavate we find archaeological fragments.”
He told that the warehouse contains many jars from the Byzantine era, and it has a scientific name (Gaza Jar).
He stressed the need to preserve the warehouse's contents and prevent Israel from confiscating it, as it “belongs to the Palestinian people and tells about their history and land.”
He called on UNESCO and cultural heritage-related institutions to “protect this site and all Palestinian archaeological sites from Israeli destruction.”
Palestinian expert raises issue of destruction of numerous archaeological monuments by occupation forces in Gaza City's Old City. Such as: “The Pasha Palace Museum, the Omari Mosque, the Samarra Hammam, and some other sites that were destroyed directly or indirectly.”
He also noted that there are many archaeological sites in the Gaza Strip that are now in danger of extinction due to “degradation factors” and are in need of urgent maintenance.
“The Israeli example in antiquities theft”
Fadl did not rule out that Israel would steal the warehouse's contents, given the existence of multiple examples in the region.
“The theft and smuggling of antiquities does not happen in Gaza, because it is a besieged and closed city, but the theft of antiquities does happen from Israel,” he said.
He went on to explain, “During the excavation of the Canaanite cemetery in Deir el-Balah (in the 1970s of the last century) the coffins and artifacts were stolen, and they are still in Israel, and it is written on them that they were Found in Deir al-Balah.”
The destruction of several archaeological sites in Gaza by the occupation forces, particularly the Pasha Palace Museum, which contains many artifacts, raises doubts about Israel's control over Fadl al-Otal's warehouse assets which it manages.
He added, “Everything is possible, especially since Israel destroyed the Pasha Palace Museum, which contains antiquities. Everything is possible: I will return to Gaza and find the artifacts (in storage), or I will not find them.” “
He adds, “God willing, I will come back and find it, and re-document it and re-monitor it (…) But if it doesn't exist, then we have to protect antiquities. Will take necessary measures.”
a great loss to world culture
He warned that the theft or destruction of the museum's collection by Israel would be a major loss to global culture.
He further said, “If these antiquities disappear, it will be a huge loss, because we were working in a scientific and artistic way with documentation and study. If they disappear, it will be a great loss for the past and present. A huge loss, and a huge loss to culture and archeology on a global scale.”
The Palestinian expert concluded his speech by calling on “all intellectuals in the world to work to protect these antiquities and save them from the scourge of conflict.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities condemned the attack on the antiquities repository by the occupation forces, and said in a statement issued late last month that the attack was “a serious violation and violation of Palestinian heritage, and a violation of international agreements.” such as the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Convention of 1954 respecting the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict.”
The ministry called on all international institutions and organizations “to intervene immediately to stop the aggression and protect the national heritage of Palestine, which is part of the heritage of humanity.”