Israeli bulldozers backed by police destroyed dozens of gravestones in a Muslim cemetery in central Jerusalem on Tuesday, according to an AFP photographer.
The Islamic Movement accused the municipality of destroying more than 200 Muslim graves that had been recently renovated in a centuries-old cemetery in mostly Jewish west Jerusalem.
“Last night at around 12:30 am (2130 GMT) occupation forces entered the cemetery and destroyed around 200 graves,” said Mahmud Abu Atta of the Al-Aqsa Foundation linked to the group, whose members are Arab citizens of Israel.
He said the bulldozers returned later in the day to destroy dozens more after a Jerusalem court rejected a petition to halt the work.
“The destruction is related to the issue of renovation. The Israeli establishment does not want us to renovate the graves so it is destroying them,” he said.
The spokesman for the municipality did not respond to several phone calls, and a police spokesman said he was looking into the incident.
The demolition of the graves happened near the site of a planned Museum of Tolerance to be built by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights group.
The project has sparked controversy because of its proximity to the graves but Abu Atta said the latest demolition work was not related to the museum.
Israel’s 1.3 million Arab citizens include the descendants of Palestinians who remained in the Jewish state after the 1948 war that attended its creation.