Jerusalem dig completes tunnel under Old City wall

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Israeli archaeologists have finished work on a tunnel which starts at a site near the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound inside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, officials said on Tuesday.

The controversial 600-metre (-yard) tunnel, originally built as a drainage channel during the Second Temple period, starts at an archaeological site just south of the area known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, which houses the third holiest site in Islam.

"After works which lasted seven years, the last part of the tunnel, which is 600 metres (yards) long and was used for draining rainwater during the Second Temple period, has been cleared," an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) spokesman said.

He told AFP the project was "purely archaeological" and that the tunnel "does not go under the Temple Mount" -- the Jewish term for the site which formerly housed the Second Temple but is now the site of the mosque plaza.

The tunnel leads to the City of David, an archaeological site run by ideological Jewish settlers located in the volatile neighbourhood of Silwan which lies just outside Dung Gate, immediately south of the Old City walls.

The project, started in 2004, has sparked controversy due to its proximity to the mosque compound and its funding from Elad, a hardline settler group which seeks to expand Jewish presence in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem....

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