Webcams fuel furor over Jerusalem excavation

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JERUSALEM -- Israel activated webcams yesterday at the site of a controversial building project in Jerusalem's Old City as part of an effort to refute accusations by Muslims that the work is threatening the Al-Aqsa Mosque...

Islamic leaders denounced the streaming video as" cosmetic," and said they would organize massive demonstrations in Jerusalem after prayers today...

Yechiel Zeligman, the Israel Antiquities Authority archeologist overseeing the excavation, said the three webcams would broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the authority's website,

The live feed from three cameras shows workers from the Antiquities Authority digging to uncover ancient buildings and artifacts hidden beneath the surface.

"Really, we don't have anything to hide," Zeligman said as he supervised 40 workers at the site yesterday."We hope the presence of the cameras will show people that nothing here is threatening the mosques and things will quieten down so we can continue our work.

"The ramp ends more than 5 meters from the wall and the gate into the mosque compound, so we are nowhere near the Al-Aqsa Mosque and nothing we are doing here poses any threat to it," he said...

Yousef Natshe, chief archeologist at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, said the new webcams did nothing to allay Muslim fears.

"It's a cosmetic act designed to draw away the attention of the people who are concerned about this," Natshe said."Putting this online doesn't give Israel any legal rights -- the act itself is illegal."...

Natshe conceded that the Israelis were probably not excavating underneath the mosque, but he accused them of continuous encroachments.

" This work is being carried out on the approach to one of the historic gates entering the Haram. . . . Maybe it is not physical damage, but it is cultural damage. It is distorting the site," he said.

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