PARIS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The United Nations' culture and education body said on Friday it was concerned about Israel's plan to rehabilitate Jewish religious shrines in the occupied West Bank in a heritage program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he intended to include the Tomb of the Patriarchs and several other Jewish religious shrines in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war in a $107 million plan to restore Jewish heritage sites.
The decision has led to violent Palestinian protests and drawn international criticism.
UNESCO said that Director-General Irina Bokova 'expressed her concern' at the announcement that the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb would be included in the plan. 'She also expressed concern at the resulting escalation of tension in the area,' the statement said. Palestinians are calling the move an attempt to seize land and holy sites on Israeli-occupied land where they hope to build a future state.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which Muslims call al-Ibrahimi mosque, is sacred to Jews and Muslims as the traditional burial place of biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
Hebron and the shrine itself have long been flashpoints of violence in the West Bank, territory Israel's government calls by its biblical names Judea and Samaria.